As promised, I’m reporting back on my experience as a student in MITx’s pilot course, 6.002x, Circuits and Electronics. Officially this is Week 7 of the course, meaning that the first half is complete, except for the midterm exam covering that content (30% of the final grade, to be taken during any 24 hour period over the next 5 days or so).
I’d like to add a few additional observations to the four that I made in my earlier post. So we’ll pick up where I left off and start with number five.
5. I’m completely sold on the value of the scrolling lecture transcript. Throughout the video segments done by the instructor there is an automatically scrolling transcript. It’s not perfect, and there have been more than one rather hilarious human error in transcription (“feminine equivalent resistance” instead of “Thévenin equivalent” is my personal favorite so far). In spite of these and the occasional and usually unjustified [?unintelligible?], from an instructional standpoint the value of these transcripts is their usefulness for skipping around within the lecture — so much easier than using the video slider bar — and their value as a way of keeping your attention. Being able to shift back and forth between watching the instructor’s handwritten or annotated slides evolve and reading the script is actually far more effective than I would have expected in terms of maintaining attention and improving comprehension. This point was made emphatically the first time I had to watch a video segment where the transcript was unavailable – boy, did I miss the transcript! It could be the nature of the STEM discipline material. In any case, for this course, in this format, it really works.
6. The energy of the course hasn’t dissipated at all. (Pun intended.) The discussion boards remain very lively after six weeks. I’ve certainly come to trust that I will always find other students who care about my questions, who have the same questions I do, and in general, a well-meaning community of people who want to help each other. The diversity of the learners (geographic, cultural, linguistic) also adds a great deal to the ambiance of the discussion board. I earned some badges for participation (right).
7. The team working on this course is responsive. By responsive I mean that the announcements show that they are reading the feedback and trying to respond. They fix things. They add new features. They respond to the students’ concerns. Given the very active 24/7 nature of this massive enrollment course, I’m a little bit awed by their ability and willingness to iterate on the design and improve the tool while the course is live. It’s a pilot, but I’m pretty sure if they took the course site down for a day several thousand people around the world (myself included) would absolutely have a fit. I’ve actually never noticed it going down even for a brief period, and I haven’t noticed any degradation of system performance.
8. The students are invested in the course. Or at least enough of them are to matter. They are generous with their time in helping others to succeed, adding wiki pages, and writing thoughtful discussion board posts about the concepts behind the homework. They’ve built and shared decks of flashcards to other study resources for the midterm and openly shared these, and in some cases enrolled students have built and shared add-ons to enhance the functionality of the course site.
As for the content, it’s certainly gotten tougher (partial derivatives, anyone? nightmarish quadratics to solve?). I’m still hanging in there, very grateful for my reasonably strong math background. Not surprisingly, math background (or lack thereof) seems to be a significant reason for quitting, based on discussion board posts.
Stay tuned for next week where we find out whether I can pass the midterm. I’ll go on the record in saying that I’m realistically expecting 60% based on how much of the homework I can usually figure out correct solutions to entirely on my own (since the Honor Code permits collaboration on homework but not on the midterm).