This October and November, Professors Gangadhara Prusty and Robin Ford from UNSW Sydney are returning to offer two popular engineering mechanics courses through the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform, FutureLearn.
Previously, the courses were taught as one longer session, but this time Prusty and Ford have split the course in half. Across three previous sessions, the course has had over 14,000 registered students.
The courses are four weeks each, estimated to require about four hours of study per week. It’s completely free to register and learn; a Certificate of Achievement can be provided for a small fee. The two courses are:
- Through Engineers’ Eyes: Introducing the Vision: Engineering Mechanics by Experiment, Analysis and Design — Learn the basic techniques of engineering mechanics and use them to interpret experiments and make designs that will work.
- Through Engineers’ Eyes: Expanding the Vision: Engineering Mechanics by Experiment, Analysis and Design — Extend the basic techniques of engineering mechanics to a range of situations; interpret experiments and apply them to design.
Unique Design: Social Learning and Adaptive Learning in a MOOC
As an open-enrollment course, it is common for students to begin with wildly different levels of prior knowledge and skills — while this typically becomes the weakness of a MOOC, for this course that’s okay. Prusty and Ford meet individual learning needs even in this open online setting using adaptive tutorials to complement key activities; these tutorials provide personalized, guided feedback and adaptive learning pathways for students who still need to master foundational concepts.
Using the FutureLearn MOOC platform, students can also connect through discussion forums after completing adaptive tutorials and activities to ask questions, collaborate, and share their experiences. This provides optional social learning interactions for students, which FutureLearn explains the foundational pedagogy guiding the creation of their platform:
“[Social learning] adds another dimension, so that people can learn from each other, as well as from videos and texts. Here’s how one of our learners put it: ‘I read through the above article and thought “that’s interesting” then I read the comments below, particularly the discussion of niches, and suddenly thought a whole lot more … it’s almost as if the basic course is in 2D but the postings lift it to 3D and really make it come alive.’”
What’s New: How the Course Has Changed Over the Years
After each previous iteration of the course, Prusty and Ford examined the learner analytics and made improvements accordingly.
In the second iteration, Week 3 of the course was streamlined, while the week’s adaptive tutorial was divided into two parts. For the third iteration, they examined thousands of learner comments in the discussion forums and divided these into technical and non-technical comments. They designed FAQs based on these to assist future learners. For this fourth run, they have divided the course into two separate courses. The goal with split is to help learners digest the content in smaller segments, with a break in between courses to consolidate their learning before attempting part two.
Two published papers share further learner results and how the professors and learning designers are working to continuously improve the course:
- Through Engineers’ Eyes: a MOOC Experiment by Robin Ford, Lorenzo Vigentini, John Vulic, Mahsa Chitsaz, and B. Gangadhara Prusty
- Data Analytics Informing MOOC Continuous Improvement by John Vulic, Mahsa Chitsaz, B. Gangadhara Prusty, and Robin Ford
You can also learn more about the course in our earlier blog post from when the course first launched: World’s First Adaptive Engineering MOOC.
Register for Engineering Mechanics MOOCs
Anyone interested in learning about engineering mechanics is encouraged to register today. Follow these links to get started: