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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

MIT pilots full-credit online residential course | MIT News

"Campus students report more flexibility, reduced stress in taking an online version of a popular MIT course" says Office of Digital Learning.

Students who completed 6.S064, a fully-online pilot course modeled after the popular 6.002 (Circuits and Electronics), reported more flexibility with scheduling and less overall stress relative to their traditional classes.
Photo: Office of Digital Learning

Last fall, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and MIT Office of Digital Learning piloted a full-credit online course for a small cohort of residential students. The popular 6.002 (Circuits and Electronics) was offered as 6.S064, leveraging an existing massive open online course (MOOC) available via the edX platform and adding a private discussion forum for MIT students.

The Teaching and Learning Lab conducted an assessment of this pilot, which is now published as an internal working paper. This preliminary assessment suggests that there are benefits to an online-while-on-campus course format. Specifically, the students who completed 6.S064 reported more flexibility with scheduling and less overall stress relative to their traditional classes. While the findings are based upon a small sample, the pilot bodes well for the possibility of allowing more student choice in how and when they learn.

Sanjay Sarma, MIT vice president for open learning, says, “We are committed to shaping the future of digital learning, and the 6.S064 experiment is a prime example of how we can use digital learning to enhance the residential experience. Moreover, due to the online format we are able to assess a student’s experience in ways that are simply not possible in the traditional classroom.”

The impetus for the experiment came from a group of students who were frustrated by course scheduling conflicts and were seeking a solution for completing courses off-cycle, particularly while participating in off-campus internship programs. The students approached members of the EECS faculty and requested access to a self-study program. In response, MIT faculty members Anant Agarwal, David Perreault, and Anantha Chandrakasan successfully petitioned the MIT Committee on the Undergraduate Program to conduct a pilot of 6.S064.

The experimental course allowed campus students to enroll in 6.002X, the first MOOC offered by MITx in 2012 and one of the inaugural offerings from edX, the online-learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard University. Professor Gerald Sussman served as the faculty lead for both the open online course and the experimental on-campus version. For the latter, additional support processes were put in place, including a private discussion forum only for the residential students. Teaching assistants also updated campus students via weekly emails and regularly posted to the online discussion board.

“The goal was to experiment with new teaching methods that enhanced the student experience and provided more flexibility,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and EECS department head. “This offering allowed us explore and respond to what our students have long said they wanted: more flexibility, more on-demand learning, and more control. We are thrilled with the response from students and possibilities for education delivered in new ways.”

The campus-based course team met weekly to review data on students’ progress and reached out to those who were having difficulty by encouraging them to attend in-person office hours. Three on-campus events were held for students, including two meet-and-greet sessions and one review session prior to the final exam. At the end of 6.S064, Anne E. Marshall, associate director for assessment and evaluation, analyzed the data of the course, exploring self-reported student and instructor reactions and learner data (use of resources, time on task, quizzes and assessments) generated by the edX platform.

Thirty-one students enrolled in the experimental online course and 27 completed it. Of those, more than half reported scheduling conflicts as the reason for enrolling in 6.S064, suggesting that on-demand formats have up-front benefits for residential learners. The students also reported less overall stress with homework problem sets done online as compared to traditional classroom assignments. Encouraged by real-time feedback to assignments, the students tended to rework problems until they could answer them correctly. The online exam format, however, could also increase stress, as students were not awarded for partial credit and did not have access their graded exams to review errors. To address this issue, this spring, instructors experimented with allowing students to submit written work for partial credit on the final exam.

Source: MIT News

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