The Residential MITx platform is an online learning system, based on open edX, and used widely in undergraduate and graduate courses at MIT. It offers a platform for authoring and distributing online course content such as videos, text, assessments, interactive elements, and sophisticated automatic grading.
Faculty at MIT are using the Residential MITx platform to:
- Offer students rapid feedback on their understanding
- Provide adaptive hinting, a lightweight version of student-teacher interaction
- Augment learning by providing simulations and visualizations
- Foster students' active reading/discussing scientific and technical material
- Enable active classroom learning (flipped classroom)
- Experiment with mastery learning
- Provide flexibility in course delivery
The Residential MITx system is strongly impacting on-campus teaching:
As of the Spring, 2015 semester:
- Over 83% of MIT undergraduates have used Residential MITx for a substantial portion of coursework — typically problem sets and other online assessments — in one or more courses.
- More than 90 MIT faculty and instructors have experimented with the Residential MITx platform.
- Between 30 and 50 MIT on-campus courses are using Residential MITx each semester.
- Explore the list of active residential courses using the MITx platform. (MIT only; you will need an MIT certificate.)
We encourage and enable faculty to use Residential MITx for on-campus courses, via knowledge dissemination, training and support. Self-author your course on MITx.
Faculty use of Residential MITx platform:
1. Offer students rapid feedback on their understanding
Rapid feedback allows students to concentrate their learning efforts and provides faculty information to focus their in-class time.
For instance, 8.02 Electricity and Magnetism, a first-year physics course held in a TEAL classroom, used the Residential MITx platform for pre-class reading, questions and problem-sets. These online assessments provided instant feedback to students, allowing rapid self-assessment of their understanding. A remarkable 92% of the surveyed students (N=573 respondents) said that the checkable answers were "extremely helpful" (79%) or "very helpful" (13%), and attributed this to the automated feedback provided. This enabled students to know when they had made a mistake, and learn from that before turning in their work. This lowered stress and raised self-confidence. Overall, 95% recommended that the faculty continue to use the Residential MITx platform in future 8.02 and physics classes. See related article in MIT Faculty Newsletter:
In 18.05 Introduction to Probability and Statistics, students completed and submitted weekly problem sets on paper. For each problem they were also given an online problem set checker through MITx. Students were allowed to use the problem set checker as many times as they wanted and thus fix incorrect work at the point when they were most engaged and invested in solving the problems correctly.
These advances also extend to graduate courses. The EECS subject 6.341 Discrete-Time Signal Processing, taught by Professor Al Oppenheim, also employed online problem sets and interactive signal processing chain building and simulation tools running in the web browser, allowing students to get real-time feedback on their understanding before the class. For Prof. Oppenheim: "This experience [with MITx] has radically changed the way I think about teaching."
2. Provide adaptive hinting: a lightweight version of student-teacher interaction
By providing students who submit incorrect responses with tailored guidance to help them master the concept, adaptive-hinting helps students learn more quickly and effectively and leverages instructor time.
For example, in 8.21 Physics of Energy, a traditional 12 unit course with four one-hour weekly class meetings, taught by Professors Washington Taylor and Isaac Chuang in the Fall of 2013, adaptive hints were employed widely in the online problem sets. These hints gave students rapid feedback that guided students toward correct use of and conversion between units of measure. For example, one question asked students to investigate the heat flow between isothermal layers of the ocean, driven by incident solar energy.
A common error was to use the wrong heat thermal conductivity for the water, e.g. salt versus fresh, or improper units. Hints provided feedback about this, and also told students immediately if they were off by more than several orders of magnitude in the answer. This way, any inadvertent mistakes could be corrected before progressing to the next parts of the problem, where this initial result was necessary.
In 6.0001 and 6.0002 Introduction to Computer Science, Digital Leaning Scientist Ana Bell used auto-grading to give immediate feedback on problems that lended themselves to standardized answers. Read more.
In 8.421 Atomic and Optical Physics Prof Ketterle used the MITx platform to allow students to ask for advice when they got stuck on a problem. When they submitted the wrong answer, they received helpful feedback immediately and could attempt the problem again.
3. Augment learning by providing simulations and visualizations
Digital tools provide the capability to bring concepts to light in new ways, enriching learning and providing a deeper understanding. In Visualizing Physics, images are used to illustrate physical concepts, providing for a fuller understanding of conceptual underpinnings.
This is an example from an undergraduate Physics course 8.02 Electricity and Magnetism, which employs the Residential MITx system for delivery:
Rings of Current
The field of a permanent magnet is suspended above a ring of current in this visualization. The magnet is oriented such that its north pole faces downwards, while the current in the ring flows counter-clockwise. A ring with current flowing through it generates a magnetic field that looks roughly like the field of a magnet - when the current is flowing counter-clockwise, it looks like a magnet with its north pole facing upwards. The resulting pressure in the field between the two objects causes the magnet to be repelled, feeling a force upwards that allows it to be levitated above the ring. The image shows selected fieldlines colorized and rotated about the vertical axis.
Taking it one step further, Professor John Belcher led the development of TEALsim, an environment for interactively exploring physically accurate simulations. TEALsim has been used in many applications, for instance in Physics to visualize electric and magnetic fields which are normally invisible to unaided human perception. Learn more about TEALsim.
In 7.06 Cell Biology, Digital Learning Scientist Mary Ellen Witrout and Digital Learning Fellow Sera Thornton worked with professors Frank Solomon and Adam Martin to create video visualizations that bring research processes and designs to life. Read more.
4. Foster students’ active reading / discussing scientific and technical material
Annotation tools encourage students to read actively and allow students to share their annotations with each other and the instructor, providing new connections and insights. Most of these digital tools may be integrated with content using the Residential MITx platform, and some of them may also be used as a standalone tool.
Sanjoy Mahajan used the NB pdf annotation system in his course 6.055 Art of Approximation in Science and Engineering to promote peer-to-peer learning and to harvest student comments to help improve later offerings of the course. Learn more.
For additional examples of NB and Annotation Studio, see Digital Tools for the Classroom.
5. Enable active classroom learning (flipped classroom)
Flipped classrooms, where students watch the lecture on video before the class, enable classroom time to be used for deeper discussion, hands-on experiments, and other forms of active learning. The Residential MITx platform enables flipped classrooms by providing content with assessments online, together with analytics for instructors, for feedback on student activity and understanding.
In 2.01 Elements of Structure, Dr. Socrate created online learning sequences for each week, using the residential MITx platform. In each sequence were a mandatory set of videos and examples of worked problems, a mandatory problem-set, an in-class mini-quiz, and optional examples of worked problems, lecture and recitation notes. Adapting these technologies and using the classroom more for discussion dramatically improved student learning outcomes, raising the percent of students scoring 90% or higher from 13% to 44%. At the same time, students indicated that they found the platform useful and time-efficient. Learn more about Socrate's innovations in 2.01
In 21F.027 Visualizing Cultures, Professor Miyagawa assigned his students video and instant assessments from his open online course, which allowed him to use the classroom time for deeper discussion and to introduce more advanced materials. Learn more about how Professor Miyagawa used the MOOC to enhance the classroom experience.
A study on another flipped classroom, 6.02 Digital Communication Systems, showed that using flipped classrooms increased student understanding and retention. Learn more about the flipped classroom in 6.02.
In 18.05r Introduction to Probability and Statistics, class was held in a TEAL classroom. Students completed readings and assignments on the Residential MITx platform, which allowed them to use class time for discussion and focus on difficult concepts.
Professors Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee expect their students in 14.73 The Challenges of World Poverty to watch videos on edX and do preparatory homework online before coming to class. This leaves more time for in-class activities and student presentations.
Professor Sanjoy Mahajan flipped his course 6.01 Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in order to engage students in deep active learning experiences during lectures and labs. Read more.
When Wolfgang Ketterle used online material in his residential course 8.421Atomic and Optical Physics the results were transformative for him as a teacher. His class was the most interactive he'd ever had. Hear Ketterle speak more about his experience:
6. Experiment with mastery learning
In 3.091 Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, Professor Michael Cima deployed a "treasure chest" of hundreds of problems developed for his MITx course on edX for a mastery-based learning and assessment system. Instead of traditional midterm and final exams, and instead of paper-based homework assignments, MIT students taking 3.091 on campus were given online assessments in a proctored environment. A minimum number of passed assessments were required to pass the course; however, students were allowed to repeat each assessment as often as needed, within a 14-day period.
7. Provide flexibility in course delivery
Using MITx leverages faculty time and increases student flexibility. For instance, using the Residential MITx system for course content delivery provides “anytime, anywhere” access by students to online course content, at the discretion of faculty course authors. This is especially helpful for graduate and other specialty courses which are not offered every year, but often desired by students needing the subject for progress in their research.
An excellent example is 8.EFT Effective Field Theory, offered in the Fall of 2014 as an MITx course on edX (and also used by MIT students on campus), taught by Professor Iain Stewart, who divided his course into modules. Now, when Ph.D. students find need to understand a concept in the course, they can directly access the corresponding module, creating more efficient use of students’ and Professor Stewart’s time.
In 8.S05 Quantum Mechanics, Barton Zwiebach leveraged the resources on his MOOC to offer more frequent iterations of the course, but at considerably less effort. Read more.
Another example is the course 2.002 Mechanics and Materials II, which has used digital tools to provide a way for students who are off-campus, for study-abroad or other reasons, to take the course. Professors Reis and Kamrin found that students taking the course remotely performed consistently with their previous performance and slightly better than those taking the course simultaneously on-campus.
MITx also provides flexibility for faculty needs. In 2.003 Dynamics and Control I, Professor Alberto Rodriguez and his colleagues use the MITx platform as a repository for storing and reusing content from year to year. Read more.
Residential MITx also offers:
- Sophisticated automatic grading, beyond simple multiple-choice questions, including evaluation of symbolic mathematical responses, and testing of multiple student inputs for specific properties, thus providing rapid feedback to students
- Mechanisms for adaptive, interactive hints, which tailor the online experience for students, based on individual levels of knowledge and guidance past common errors
- Rich and flexible integration of media, text, and assessments, allowing problems to be interleaved with videos, and searchable text transcripts to be provided alongside videos
- Close integration with the campus learning management system (Stellar / Modular Services Framework), providing seamless transfer of student grades
- A number of experimental learning environments that faculty can use as incubators for testing new or different technologically enhanced pedagogical paradigms
Explore the list of active residential courses using the MITx platform. (MIT only; you will need an MIT certificate.)
Teaching an-campus course and interested in using the Residential MITx platform? Explore For MIT Faculty or self-author your course on MITx. We encourage and enable faculty to use the Residential MITx platform for on-campus courses, via knowledge dissemination, training, and support.