Remote Teaching: Course 2
MIT students often choose mechanical engineering as a major to acquire hands-on building experience through project-based classes. In such classes, students first acquire foundational knowledge of theory, analysis, and design. In the second half of the semester, students typically work in machine shops, design and build robots that compete with each other, work collaboratively and present in teams, and/or create new toys and products. As Course 2 students approached the second half of the Spring 2020 semester, faculty rose to the challenge of reconceptualizing these classes for remote learning, changing from teaching hardware all the way to teaching software. In the descriptions below, MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor Maria Yang offers an overview of Course 2 subjects that adapted to remote learning in innovative ways.
Converting to Digital
Instructors in several Course 2 classes focused on how to adapt the design and building component to become completely digital. The transition leaned heavily on and raised expectations for computer-aided design (CAD), as well as guiding students in the use of MATLAB and Moldflow (simulation software used to troubleshoot plastic injection and compression molding).
Deferring Irreplaceable Elements
2.007, one of the signature classes in Course 2, involves students building robots that compete against each other. In a student survey, students strongly expressed that they still wanted that experience, so the instructors are offering an optional 3 unit course that students can take in Spring 2021. A strategy like this allows students to still experience parts of classes that they are excited about by deferring elements that cannot be replicated online.
Home Shop Experience
Course 2 instructors sought to bring the shop experience to students at home after the switch to remote teaching. Students were encouraged to use materials at home (e.g. cardboard box and scissors), or order materials and tools online if the class had a budget.
Another strategy, which happened in several Course 2 classes this past spring - 2.00B (toy product design class), 2.72 (lathe making class), and 2.008 (manufacturing class) - involved the instructional staff preparing and sending materials kits to students. 2.00B sent an electronics kit, materials kit, and tool kit to students wherever they were located for use in their projects.
This summer, MIT launched a remote making summer pilot with a risk classification system. This system, which goes from green to red, is designed to guide undergraduates and faculty supervisors in making decisions that properly balance the opportunity for students to continue making with safety, depending on each student’s situation. More details on this pilot can be found here.
Synchronous & Asynchronous Lectures
Many instructors opted to have a live, synchronous lecture that was also recorded for students to watch asynchronously if they needed to. However, in 2.00B, Professor David Ross produced new, asynchronous 15-20 minute lectures for students to watch. For example, in one of his videos, he talked about milestones students had to achieve for their homework, how to revise their ideas and post them on Slack, how to make drawings and use the kits sent home, and—most importantly—he reminded students to have fun. Students would complete their milestones at home for homework, and take photos with their phones to submit new product ideas for their toys.
Though the temporary loss of in-person learning is difficult, Course 2 classes have shown various ways that they continued to bring as much of the Course 2 experience to students as possible this past spring, despite not being able to do as much hands-on building as before.
Melissa Cao, Teaching and Learning Content Writer