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Designing the First Year at MIT


As part of the Office of the Vice Chancellor’s priority on exploring the first year undergraduate experience, MIT offered a spring 2018 course, Designing the First Year at MIT, to surface and leverage students’ own insights and recommendations. Open to all enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, the design-intensive course used the MIT first-year experience as a way to teach different methods for how to examine an issue, understand it better, tease out what constituents prioritize changing, design alternate prototypes, evaluate those, and iterate.

With peers and faculty from across the Institute, students reimagined and redesigned the first-year undergraduate experience; developed new skills in design, learning science, and communication; and presented a final project to senior administration. Learn more about the outcomes of the class and preliminary plans to implement students’ recommendations.

Why take this approach? At MIT, we’ve learned our students are the best advocates for the change they want to see at MIT. And ultimately, we hope what we learn from the class will serve to make the first year here the best that MIT can offer to future students.


The Course

  • DesignFY_Syllabus_20180206
  • 2.S991 (U), 2.S990 (G), CMS.S63 (U), CMS.S99 (G)
  • 12 unit Subject. 3-0-9
  • HASS-E credit for undergraduates
  • Eligible for design minor credit
  • Time and location: MW9.30-11.00 am in 54-100 (lectures) and 32-044 (for breakout sessions)
  • Instructors: Bryan Moser (lead), Bruce Cameron (lead), Glen Urban, Maria Yang, and Justin Reich
  • Faculty Advisors: Peko Hosoi, Ian Waitz, Dan Frey, Justin Steil, Susan Silbey, Dennis Kim
  • Teaching Assistants: Ben Linville-Engler, Fahad Punjwani, and Grace Kim
  • Lab Assistants: Edward Fan, Kat Jiang, and Alexa Martin

Subject Description

This subject offers instruction in the process of design while working on a specific design challenge: the potential to significantly improve and innovate on the MIT undergraduate first year.

Using design methods from across MIT Schools, students will learn about the design process, from identifying needs and goals to developing concepts and modes of validation.

Beginning with stakeholder needs identification that will involve reaching out directly to the MIT community, students will be responsible for project deliverables including a customer needs document and a tradespace of options.

Subject work will be team-based and project-focused, offering students an opportunity to present the audacious and incremental options developed to senior MIT stakeholders in a workshop format.

Students will also be exposed to principles of curriculum design and pedagogy, as they develop a holistic perspective to the design of the MIT First Year.