We wanted to do a feedback control class that was much more lab based,
much more flipped classroom style where there's
a couple hours of lectures but the main learning was the three-hour lab experience
where you'd interact with the TA's and
try to engage students in the discussion of their design.
The first couple times we taught it, it was very successful and got very popular
and this past term was the largest class we've had. It was 130 students.
Hey Professor White !
Hi Professor White!
Professor White, Thank you so much!
When the semester became remote
with all the Covid stuff
I really appreciated your enthusiasm and eagerness to improvise!
We gathered together enough parts to send a kit of parts home with every single student.
We gave them videos to teach them
how to assemble it into a system ---
and then they would have to model the system and then design ---
What we found is that if you think there's
one technique that works, there isn't.
So, some students just wanted the expectations of synchronous lectures done live.
A third of the students just want us to set up Zoom breakout rooms where
four or five of them will come together and they just talk through the problem sets of the labs.
The other thing that worked really well
is we had a mixture of grad students and undergrads taking the class
and we decided that a good way to give graduate students the
extra tasks they had to do to make it a grad class was to say okay you can
satisfy that criteria by helping one of the undergrads get through in the labs.
Magically overnight students who were just lost seem to
suddenly feel like they had a lifeline and grad students suddenly felt connected and
you know, "What I can get course credit for doing something that really means a lot to me?"
You were incredibly accommodating and understanding.
I genuinely enjoyed doing all the labs at my own time.
I really think you did a great job of helping optimize that experience for us.
[voice of Jacob White] The idea of doing hardware for a wider audience is really tough.
I think the thing that made this class work is the fact that
we were willing to put in, you know think about it, 130 students
six half-hour interviews one-on-one with each student, that's 400 hours right off the bat.
and then you double or triple that.
All props to you, your wonderful TA's and your colleagues!
Thank you so much for going above and beyond!
I can't thank you enough.
You know, we want students to feel a sense of agency,
"OK, I took this class and now if somebody
gives me, I don't know, a self-driving car, I'm gonna know how to control it
or if they give me, you know, a rocket, to keep going in the right right direction
I may not know how to do it, but I know how to get started, and I know
I have the tools that will help me figure out what questions to ask."
And in hindsight I maybe haven't been as honest with myself about
how effective those open-ended labs on campus were,
that maybe the things we did to make it work remotely
would also have helped students
get a better experience out of working on the labs on campus.
If we're going to do more remote education
not just because of Covid,
it doesn't really matter if we can bring them into the lecture halls
I don't think that's very important to them.
I think the thing that will matter the most is for them to be able to interact
with each other face to face. If they can just walk down the hall and
ask them their friends for help on the problem set, I think that's a
big part of the MIT education.