Skip to main content

Designing the First Year at MIT



What is the work like, and what are the workload expectations?
A diverse group of faculty from across all MIT schools (Architecture and Planning; Engineering; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Science; and the Sloan School of Management) will provide lectures and readings to ground the discussion in systems thinking, design, and learning science. Deliverables will be write-ups and presentations on various stages of the interview and design process: documentation of the work are an important component of the design process. Framing and refining the scope of the first year experience to be considered is part of the design process. That being said, the schedule is intentionally not overloaded with content to preserve working time in the 9 hours in the 3-0-9 unit designation.

What is the class size?
As a project-based class, you will breakout into reasonable team sizes to tackle aspects of the observation, exploration, enumeration, and validation of FYE options. While in the weekly scheduled workshop there will be total team of teams briefings and integrations, and much of the outside of lecture and workshop 9 hours will be spent with a subteam working on parts of the total integrated problem and solution space.

Why are you focusing this design class on the first year?
A good way to understand this is to look at the “top ten” responses about the objectives of the first year and ways to improve the first year we have gathered from conversations with students and faculty. They cover the gamut from the increasing opportunities for exploration to expanding the learning communities to improving advising to ensuring that students ‘learn’ resiliency.

What is the scope of what we might design?
The whole first year experience, not only first year classes, are available to consider. A few examples of aspects of the first year targeted for change could include Science GIRs; HASS GIRs; The Hidden Curriculum (learning outside the classroom, including UROPs); The External Curriculum (learning off campus at agencies and companies); and Advising (how can MIT best support first year students as they make many important decisions). The number of aspects the class could examine will be influenced by the interest of the students enrolling, and the number of teams that can form from the final enrollment.

Will I learn about curriculum design and education?
While this course will expose you to learning strategy and some aspects of instructional design, the attention to learning science will be balanced with design and systems thinking for complex challenges. This course is not primarily on curricular design. Non-curricular aspects of the first year experience will also be within consideration.

If I did not attend MIT as an undergraduate, will the course still be valuable?
The course is designed, first and foremost, to teach a variety of design methodologies that will be applicable beyond the first year experience at MIT. Over the past few months a team of faculty, students, and staff have been gathering ‘intelligence’ (e.g., data, surveys, literature) about the first year experience at MIT (and beyond) and all of this will be available to students in the class from day one to help them understand MIT better. Finally, anyone with a general interest in pedagogy, teaching, or higher education will benefit in a similar way that MBA students do when they focus on cases that concern a particular company.

How will the results of the class be used?
The final integrated recommendations from the student teams in this course will be shared in a formal presentation to the MIT senior administration, and discussed with additional key community members and decision makers across MIT. The framing and communication of issues and feasible options to stakeholders is a key topic of discussion (and preparation) in the latter parts of the course. This is a real and relevant topic of great interest to many members of the MIT community.