Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The MIT 6.002X Course

On-Line courses are laudable and the MIT 6.002x course was also. But. Now my bona fides here may help, you see I taught 6.02 from 1969-1971 at MIT, hundreds of students and many lectures. So not only did I take the course, but I taught it, taking over from Paul Grey who became President of MIT.

Thus I signed up to see how its was. Well, in my opinion, not really ready for prime time, and it did get over 120,000 sign ups.

My issues were as follows:

1. The numerical answers required using Excel and cutting and pasting. The SW used was unforgiving otherwise. If you calculated and answer and it did not contain enough significant digits, you were wrong. Getting close enough was not doable. You had to be on target.

2. The Lab SW was near impossible to figure out at first, you had to try everything until you found the right tool, such as ammeter. It was a logo that finally worked. Hunt and peck was the working standard. That generally is not the way one works in a lab.

3. The entry of equations into the online system was in my opinion a disaster. No hint where to find their entry mechanism, no way to figure it out, so that was the end. Frankly at this point I gave up. I was spending more time trying to use their interface and not the course material. Looking back I spent 80% on SW interface and 20% on the material.

4. The text was somewhat useless, too much of too little. Again it may have been a matter of style but I found it lacking.

5. When I was teaching this there was always the issue of understanding what the MIT way was. Namely you had to intuit the answer, somewhat along the lines of "let the force be with you". This meant that on one hand you could crank thru the details on the other hand if you really understood the ideas you could intuit the answer. The second issue was the "Hidden Curriculum" , namely what was really being asked to know, and often the text was the main obstacle.

6. Thus is the a positive step. From my perspective it enticed over 100,000 people to try their hand. That was very positive. It made them find ways to work together, very positive.

7. But, the SW used by MIT was classic MIT, half baked. Now I do not want to annoy the CS folks, but this was not Google, where if you had a problem you clicked somewhere and got your answer. This in fact was worse than Microsoft, they at least gave you gibberish. This was that you had to reach out to the "community" and seek an answer. God and bad.

8. If you really did not want to spend your life figuring out the MIT interface and just test yourself on the material this was a big defeat. If however you were willing to put up with the clunky interface, after all it was free, then you had an opportunity to see something.

The problem is how does MIT get feedback, real positive and corrective feedback. That is truly the problem and the challenge.