Registration for Second DartmouthX Online Course Now Open

Dartmouth Now

February 4, 2015

By Hannah Silverstein, MALS '09

Students who sign up for Vicki May’s online course, “The Engineering of Structures Around Us,” may live in California or Haiti. They may be high school students interested in careers in engineering or retirees who want a deeper understanding of architecture. Regardless, May, an associate professor at Thayer School of Engineering, wants them to use their hands.

DartmouthX Vicki May
Professor Vicki May during the production of her DartmouthX massive open online course, “The Engineering of Structures Around Us.” (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“I’m going to encourage them to build things,” she says. “We’re trying to use easy-to-find materials like Popsicle sticks and spaghetti, even grass or rocks—and I’m going to encourage them to be creative. I use an inquiry-based approach to teaching—starting with questions. Having students experiment is important to me.”

Registration is now open for May’s course, the second of four initial DartmouthX massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that the College is producing this year in conjunction with the nonprofit online learning consortium edX. The first, “Introduction to Environmental Science,” taught by Andrew Friedland, the Richard and Jane Pearl Professor in Environmental Studies, began this week.

Two others are expected to launch during the next 12 months: an introduction to opera, taught by Professor Steve Swayne, chair of the music department; and literature of the American Renaissance, with Don Pease, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, and James “Jed” Dobson, a lecturer in writing.

Josh Kim, Dartmouth’s director of digital learning programs, says he’s pleased with the progress of all four courses. “Each one presents unique challenges and opportunities, and each is bringing new lessons back to Dartmouth’s own classrooms—which is one of the primary goals of the DartmouthX program,” he says.

An award-winning teacher and a former associate director of Dartmouth’s Center for the Advancement for Learning (DCAL), May was drawn to creating a MOOC “because I wanted to be part of the experiment. I love thinking about teaching and learning, and I figured if I create something that thousands of people can learn from, maybe it will make me a better teacher.”

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