TLL's blog

The Joy of Focussed-Random Browsing in the Library Stacks: recast and rediscovered in my Twitter feed

By Janet Rankin, Sr. Associate Director for Teaching Initiatives

For anyone who was involved in scholarly pursuits before the Internet became ubiquitous and before card catalogs became trendy for the storage of things having nothing to do with cards, browsing the library stacks for research-related journal articles and texts - was one of the most exciting, and yet simple practices many researchers engaged in.  

I called it "Focussed-Random Browsing", and, for those of you younger than 30, here's how it worked:

TLL MIT-SUTD educational videos to be posted on OCW

By Dipa Shah, Associate Director for Teaching and Learning

For the last two and a half years, the Teaching and Learning Lab has been developing educational videos. While it’s true that TLL led the development of these videos, it was really a collaborative effort involving MIT faculty, instructors, post-docs, graduate students, and our on-campus Academic Media Production Services (AMPS). Funded through the MIT - Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) collaboration, the videos target content from the first three semesters of the undergraduate curriculum at SUTD. Many of the courses students take in their first three semesters at SUTD look very similar to MIT GIR courses and the prerequisite courses for many STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) undergraduate programs across the U.S. The videos are meant to supplement classroom instruction. Instructors might use snippets of video in class or students might watch them outside of class to review a concept or prepare for class discussion.

Facilitating Education Research in the MOOC Space

By Jennifer DeBoer, Postdoctoral Associate for Education Research

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer a plethora of data for instructors, researchers, administrators, and students to support teaching and learning in this new educational context. However, these overwhelming and complex data are not in traditional structures for educational researchers.

Una-May O’Reilly, Principal Research Scientist in CSAIL and leader of the ALFA group, presented her database, visualizer, and analysis structure to better facilitate research on MOOC data in one of OEIT’s xTalks.  One of the challenges and opportunities of MOOCs is that there are multiple platforms and providers. ALFA’s protocol would be “platform agnostic” and would support standardization of these diverse data structures so that researchers could query any of them in the same way.

TLL work highlights initial results of edX MOOC study

By: Jennifer DeBoer, Postdoctoral Associate for Education Research

As a result of the ongoing collaboration between TLL, MIT’s RELATE, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and edX, we were delighted to release preliminary findings from our yearlong investigation of the first edX class, 6.002x. The findings appeared in the online journal “Research & Practice in Assessment” (RPA) in its special summer 2013 issue on MOOCs. You can download our paper here

In the study, we outline the investigation we have undertaken as part of a multidisciplinary, cross-institution team in order to make sense of the massive quantities of rich data from 6.002x.  Our work is funded by a one-year NSF grant (information here).  We address four basic research questions: who are the 6.002x students, what behaviors and background factors predict achievement and persistence, how do students form groups and interact with each other, and what is the 6.002x experience for residential MIT students? 

Placing MOOCs in the Larger Context of “Innovations” in Education

By Jennifer DeBoer, Postdoctoral Associate for Education Research

The Sorbonne Universités consortium of universities hosted a colloquium on Trends in Innovative Education last week.  I was pleased to present our recent work with data from the edX platform, and I highlighted two major points.

First, I presented the quantitative results from our predictive models, which investigate which student behaviors and background factors are significantly related to achievement.  Another RPA blog entry describes this overall study, and Lori has highlighted some of the key findings here.


MOOC Research Workshop and Conference

By Lori Breslow, Director, TLL

Last week I attended the MOOC Workshop and Conference at the University of Texas-Arlington.  Organized by George Siemens, who is well known for co-creating one of the first c(connectivist)MOOCs, almost two hundred researchers, instructional designers, faculty, computer scientists, and policy makers talked about the work they’ve been doing and what they’ve learned so far.

Talking with grad students about "soft skills" for the academic job market

By Jennifer DeBoer, Postdoctoral Associate for Education Research

On Monday night I had the pleasure of sharing my experiences on a panel hosted by the MIT Graduate Student Council’s Academic, Research and Careers Committee.  (Video of the panel is forthcoming for those who could not attend.)  The discussion was focused on “soft skills” for the academic job market, those skills and experiences beyond a publication record that often get forgotten with the laser-focus on articles and conference papers. 

What Future for MOOCs?

By Lori Breslow, Director, TLL

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) held its annual meeting in Doha at the end of October (  WISE, founded by the Qatar Foundation in 2009, brought together 1,200 educators from 100 countries to focus on innovation both at the policy level and in the classroom.

As part of this year’s summit, I was asked to write a short commentary on the future ofMOOCs. (Although, in all honesty, I don’t think I know more than anyone else on how MOOCs will evolve.)  The conference organizers asked me to focus on the results of our research using the data generated by edX’s first MOOC, “Circuits and Electronics” (6.002x), and to speculate on what those findings might mean for teaching and learning.  As I reviewed our study, two thoughts came to mind.

Teaching & Learning - Learning by Teaching

By Janet Rankin, Sr. Associate Director for Teaching Initiatives

I am teaching 5.95J (Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering ) this semester - and have recently been giving my students feedback on their "Planning a Lecture" assignment.

After reading several assignments wherein students had listed the topics that they were planning to address in a particular class or course - and telling each of them that they could better support student learning if they developed a structure or schematic that linked the concepts together - i realized that i should be examining my own course for ways to graphically depict the connections among the topics that we discuss. This was one of my "learning-by-teaching" moments of the semester.

Luckily for me and the students in 5.95J - a grand unifying structure was at my fingertips - in the Constructive Alignment work of John Biggs. We already discuss Biggs work in the course, and use it to motivate the classes on Learning Outcomes, Active Learning, and Grading - so it is a natural and logical extension to use it to organize the other classes as well.

Presenting findings from the study of edX’s first MOOC to MITIMCo

By Lori Breslow, Director, TLL

Last week, I was delighted to speak before a group of staff members from the MIT Investment  Management Corporation (MITIMCo).  I had been invited to present the results from TLL’s initial study of “Circuits and Electronics” (6.002x), edX’s first MOOC.  The findings appeared in the online journal Research & Practice in Assessment (RPA) in its special summer 2013 issue on MOOCs.

In the presentation, I described the research we undertook as part of a multidisciplinary, cross-institutional team, including faculty and graduate students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as MIT’s RELATE (Research in Learning, Assessing and Tutoring Effectively) group.  The goal of the research was to make sense of the massive quantities of rich data from 6.002x. This work was funded by a one-year NSF grant.

The MITIMCo staff had a number of interesting questions about the study, many of which are being asked in conversations taking place around MOOCs...