Five new edX classes planned

by Heyi Jiang | 2/14/16 7:08pm

On Tuesday Feb. 16, the College’s fourth DartmouthX course will launch officially on edX, welcoming more than 2,000 students into the classroom of “The American Renaissance: Classic Literature of the 19th Century.” Following the launch, five new DartmouthX courses will be created throughout 2016 and 2017: “Question Reality! Physics, Philosophy and the Limits of Knowledge,” “Free Will, Attention, Top-Down Causation and Consciousness in the Brain,” “John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’,” “Materials in Gear” and “Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

Since 2014, the College has collaborated with the online learning platform edX to create four massive open online courses. “The American Renaissance” will be led by English professors Donald Pease and James Dobson, who are also team-teaching English 52.04, “The American Renaissance at Dartmouth,” on campus.

Dobson said that he and Pease will be bridging the residential course and the online course together. In both settings, the course will employ an array of technologies, including a digital annotation tool that allows both residential and online students to work with the texts.

Pease said that through this online course, he hopes to see how members of the residential classroom will come to recognize the difference between their readings of the great works of American literature and those of students and scholars from across the globe.

“Those differences, I think, will be educative on every imaginable level,” he said.

Both Pease and Dobson said that the successful production of this DartmouthX course is the result of a team effort, which include the input of people involved in sectors such as media production and public outreach.

Pease described the process of producing the course as an incredible pedagogical collaboration between a variety of groups.

Thayer School of Engineering professor Rachel Obbard Th’06, will be teaching “Materials in Gear,” a course that aims to introduce people to basic engineering principles through the study of sports gear.

Obbard said that the creation of a DartmouthX course witnesses a lot of collaboration between different groups of people such as professors, instructional designers, librarians and computer programmers.

As the development of her course is still in its initial phases, many details of the class have yet to be determined, Obbard said. The class would possibly last four to six weeks, during which she plans to focus on one type of sports equipment, such as boards.

“Baseball bats, cricket bats, snowboards and skateboards all have some common engineering requirements, and they use some similar materials,” she said. “But they also involve very different materials depending on their different requirements. So by basing [the class] on a certain class of equipment, I can talk about the different materials that are used in it.”

Obbard said that she is interested in raising the public’s literacy on STEM subjects by teaching this online course, and that she believes that everybody should have access to a quality education. The online platform will also be an opportunity to test different STEM teaching strategies and cyberlearning initiatives.

Psychological and brain sciences professor Peter Tse ’84 will be leading “Free Will, Attention, Top-Down Causation, and Consciousness in the Brain.” He wrote in an email that he wishes to reach out to people who would like to learn about how volitional attention, consciousness and free will might be demonstrated in the activity of neural circuitry.

“A MOOC is the perfect way for reaching a much wider audience than is possible in a traditional classroom,” Tse said.

Geisel School of Medicine associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology Mark Spaller will be teaching “Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

Spaller wrote in an email that a number of practices encapsulated by “complementary and alternative medicine” are of great interest to the public. At the same time, there is a “hidden in plain site” quality to this topic.

“A clear and objective introduction would benefit many who are curious about [complementary and alternative medicine], but feel they are either uninformed, ill-informed or misinformed on the topic,” he said.

As an online platform is highly effective in reaching out to a large audience from a wide spectrum of demographic groups, a DartmouthX course would be “an ideal venue to have a large and positive educational impact on this subject,” he said.

Spaller said that teaching a MOOC will be both a personal and a professional challenge. Having taught in the traditional classroom settings for years, Spaller said that an online platform presents a “new direction,” which would aid him in the further development of his teaching skills.

“In this regard, I’m still a student myself,” he said. “Developing this course will be a team effort, and I look forward to learning from the experts on the DartmouthX staff on how to translate my knowledge into an effective and compelling online educational experience.”

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