The Mechanical MOOC and MIT OpenCourseware

This post is part of a series that expands on Dave Cormier’s Youtube video “Success in a MOOC” and applies his advice to the upcoming Mechanical MOOC about the Python programming language.  Cormier breaks down online learning success into five steps: Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster and Focus.  This post offers a quick orientation to MIT’s OpenCourseWare.

American Architecture

MIT’s famous Stata Center, designed by architect Frank Gehry

OpenCourseWare was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001.  It was a pioneer in making college-level learning materials available online and was a precursor to the MIT-Harvard-Berkeley collaboration edX.  A more recent iteration of OCW is OCW Scholar, which assembles the course materials in a more structured way.

OCW content is made available under a Creative Commons license, which means that re-use of the materials is permitted, as long as you give credit to the author and don’t sell it or include it in something for sale.  It is a “share-alike” license, so if you remix the materials, your product has to use the same attribution/non-commercial license.  OCW is supported by foundation and corporate underwriting, individual donations and the Amazon Affiliate program.

The OCW materials used in the Mechanical MOOC come from the MIT classes A Gentle Introduction to Python taught by Sarina Canelake and Introduction to Computer Science and Programming taught by John Guttag.

A Gentle Introduction to Python 

Readings for the Gentle course are drawn from the book How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python, which is available on the OCW course site in both PDF and HTML format.  There’s an Amazon link to the book, but it’s actually not available there.  However, it IS available via the Lulu print-on-demand service if you prefer a paper copy.  A  revised version of the book was published in 2012 by O’Reilly and is available via or for free.

There are no video lectures for the course, only course handouts and practice sets.  The first lecture handouts talk about the IDLE development environment.  It’s not yet clear to me whether mMOOC participants will do the exercises from this course in IDLE or if all of the practice will take place on CodeAcademy.

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming

The CS and Programming course is one of the OCW Scholar courses, so it has a step-by-step structure in addition to the online materials.  There are also video lectures throughout the course, but I will probably view them on YouTube.  The lectures are all standard class-length – 45 to 55 minutes.  I know I have trouble watching online videos this long, so I’ll probably try to watch them in chunks.

Materials for this course also mention the IDLE programming environment.

There are no required textbooks, but they offer some recommended resources, complete with Amazon links.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc


About Claudia Scholz

Higher education professional in Atlanta, GA specializing in faculty development and research administration.
This entry was posted in Learning to Code, MOOCs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Please Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s