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Faculty prepare for first DartmouthX online classes

Oct 06, 2014   |   by Bryn Morgan   |   The Dartmouth

Environmental studies professor Andrew Friedland stands in front of Baker Tower, introducing himself and encouraging students to sign up for his class. “In the 1960s, there were three billion people on earth. Today there are 7.2 billion inhabitants impacting the natural world,” he says.

“Introduction to Environmental Science” will launch on Feb. 3, 2015. But the class is not a typical 10A. Friedland’s is the first of four massive open online courses that the College will offer in 2015 through the digital learning platform edX, a partnership announced last January. More than 500 people have registered for the course so far.

Interviewed participating professors said they found that the course preparation process has given them new ways of looking at course topics, their teaching styles and how students absorb material. These lessons can be adapted to future courses taught in Hanover, they said.

The other three MOOCs are “The Engineering of Structures Around Us,” which Thayer School of Engineering professor Vicki May will teach in May 2015, English professor Don Pease and English lecturer James Dobson’s course on the American Renaissance starting in October 2015 and music department chair Steve Swayne’s opera course, whose launch date is not yet specified.

Founded in 2012 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, edX is a nonprofit that offers MOOCs to students worldwide. The consortium of edX charter members comprises more than 30 universities worldwide, including the University of California at Berkeley, Georgetown University and Cornell University, as well as universities in Japan, Australia and India...

...May said she plans to use skills gained from this experience in her Thayer classroom. May’s MOOC is based on the existing Thayer course “Integrated Design: Engineering, Architecture and Building Technology,” which she co-teaches.

“I think the MOOC provides a great way to better understand how students learn,” she wrote. “We’re planning to develop tools and resources that I will use in my residential courses.”

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