art into pedantry. Hence University education.”
Let’s face it: MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) promise disruption, and yet most of them to date deliver an extremely traditional learning experience. Basically, it’s the big-lecture-hall format, with an internet-sized lecture hall.
However, many of us in higher education never were happy about the big-lecture-hall format in the first place. Lecturing to an audience of hundreds is a impersonal experience for all involved; the interaction is usually almost completely unidirectional, and the material must be lowered to the lowest common denominator. Make no mistake: there are many professors who are masters of this format, who can inspire mass audiences. However, I’d wager that most of them still wish they could engage with their students in a smaller format. The big-hall lecture is a practical necessity, but it is in no way ideal. In many ways, the big lecture is academia’s dirty laundry; many of the most memorable experiences in a Harvard education come from smaller seminar experiences, not to mention interactions with peers.
Our goal is to reboot the MOOC and leverage the advantages of the internet, rather than just shoveling the same old lecture format onto the web. It’s going to be a long journey, and we’re almost certainly not going to get it right the first time, but we’re excited about the possibilities. We invite you to join us in this experiment and we welcome your feedback and help in making an online learning space that lives up to the hype.
In MCB80x, we’re piloting a style of instruction that we call “Guided Interactivity“, where in interactive simulations are seamlessly woven into the flow of instruction. We will walk you through the process of building up a neuron, piece by piece, allowing you to dynamically explore the function of the nervous system.
Education On Location
While lectures are tied to the physical environment lecture hall, the internet has no such limitations. With the internet, we can bring you into the laboratory, or to a museum, or to a doctor’s office. Neuroscience happens in the world, and we want to take you to see it firsthand.
Student Generated Content
Humans have a natural desire to contribute. With MCB80x, we will invite students to conduct their own experiments at home and in their own schools, using DIY hardware from our partners at Backyard Brains. In addition to experiencing real experiments firsthand, students will be invited to film and contribute back their experiments.
|Prof. David Cox|
Course Head David Cox is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and of Computer Science, and is a member of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University. His laboratory seeks to understand the computational underpinnings of visual processing through concerted efforts in both reverse- and forward-engineering. To this end, his group employs a wide range of experimental techniques (ranging from microelectrode recordings in living brains to visual psychophysics in humans) to probe natural systems, while at the same time actively developing practical computer vision systems based on what is learned about the brain.
|Nadja Oertelt. HarvardX Fellow, Producer|
Nadja Oertelt is a HarvardX Fellow and producer for MCB80x. She graduated from MIT in 2008 with a degree in Neuroscience has studied visual arts, film, anthropology and archaeology. She has worked as an independent documentary producer and director for the past decade.
|Winston Yan. Content Development Assistant|
Winston Yan graduated from Harvard in 2010 with a degree in Physics and is currently a 3rd year student in the Harvard-MIT MD/PhD program. He has finished the first two years of medical school in the HST program and is about to start his PhD in the lab of Professor Feng Zhang at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT & Broad Institute. Winston will be working on developing and applying molecular and optical techniques to studying molecular and cellular changes in neural circuits during healthy behaviors, like learning and memory, and neuropsychiatric diseases.