Searching for Keywords/Ideas within Videos + Knowledge Tree

Source: MIT  news office website, Apr 2013

What may set i2.002 apart is its ease of searching: Search a key word or concept, and a video will start at exactly the moment in a lecture when that concept is introduced.

“It’s like Googling your class,” says Ken Kamrin, the Class of 1956 Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “It’s a clickable, searchable index of videos … something that might be considered as part of the next generation of textbooks.”

Students can watch lectures on their own time. The instructors require only that these students attend regular lab sections and in-class exams.

In 2012, Reis and Kamrin videotaped lectures and recitations from 2.002 and tracked the points at which new topics were introduced. The team then organized the videos, creating a tree of clickable topics and subtopics. A student can watch lectures in sequence, or search a topic and watch related videos along a particular topic’s “branch.”

If a student has a question about a problem set, the student can post it to an online discussion forum moderated by teaching assistants, or consult a new feature in the web course: an “online homework tutor” in which TAs post whiteboard-like videos, talking through the concepts in a problem set as they work through the beginnings of a solution. The videos are meant to simulate the kind of help typically offered during office hours.

From Kamrin’s perspective, the tutor videos may also address a growing problem in  MOOCs. When a student posts a question to a course’s discussion forum, the first to provide a correct solution is often not the course TA, but another student. This works, Kamrin says, but only up to a point: The more difficult the course material, the less likely it is that another student will provide a correct answer. But as online courses attract tens of thousands of students at a time, it’s virtually impossible for TAs to address every unanswered question, creating a situation that Kamrin says is not “scalable.”

So far, the online experiment seems to indicate the more resources students have available to them, both online and in the classroom, the better. For example, one student may learn best in the lecture hall, while another may prefer to go straight to a p-set, referring to specific points in a video lecture if she is confused.

“Students have a toolbox of different mechanisms of learning, and each student is going to grab a particular tool that they feel most comfortable with,” Reis says, adding that “[i2.002] provides yet another set of tools for students.

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