Learn Introductory Biology from MIT’s Best

Source: MIT news office, Mar 2013

The online course is taught by senior members of the MIT Department of Biology: Eric Lander and Graham Walker.

Lander, who’ll host the online course, has taught 7.00 to MIT students in the classroom for close to 20 years. He led the Human Genome Project that in the 1990s sequenced human genes, recently won a $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Science, and is co-chair of President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

“At many universities, senior faculty are excused from heavy teaching. But their knowledge makes them more effective in the classroom,” Weinberg says. “It’s a feather in MIT’s cap.”

It’s not just Lander and Weinberg teaching 7.00: Sallie “Penny” Chisholm, who received the National Medal of Science in December, also teaches it to MIT freshmen in the classroom.

Having such faculty teach an introductory course in the classroom and online inspires students to learn in a way textbooks cannot, Walker says. “It brings a perspective of someone who’s on the cutting edge. That person teaches in a completely different way,” he says. “What’s in the textbook is old. Eric, for example, mentions things that are happening last week or month. It’s very dynamic and challenging, and students pick up on the excitement.”

MIT also purchased computer-based protein and gene viewers so online students could view genes and proteins that were previously exhibited in the classroom as models or illustrations. The teachers started using that technology in the classroom, as well.

“Instead of giving them a little toy problem about a human gene, now our students can scan a whole gene using computer-based viewers,” Lander says.  “The new technology in our own classrooms is a great thing.”

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