Rice University faculty developing 12 new online courses

NEWS RELEASE

B.J. Almond
713-348-6770
balmond@rice.edu

Rice University faculty developing 12 new online courses

Classes will be offered on Coursera or edX in next academic year

 HOUSTON — (May 9, 2013) — A hands-on laboratory course in electrical engineering that enables students to build and test their own circuits is among 12 new online courses currently being developed by Rice University faculty.

Courses in religion and hip-hop, digital teaching materials, immunology, chemistry, biochemistry, philosophy, algorithmic thinking, parallel programming, physics, planetary evolution and troubleshooting biomedical equipment also have been approved for development.

The new courses will be offered in the 2013-14 academic year on Coursera or edX – the two online education providers with which Rice University is a partner.

Caroline Levander, Rice’s vice provost for interdisciplinary initiatives, said a panel of faculty reviewers had to make some “tough choices” when selecting a dozen courses to approve from 20 proposals.

“The panel reviewing these proposals as well as university leaders were impressed by the fact that our very best faculty representing departments across the university rose to the challenge of experimenting with new capabilities and teaching opportunities that these online platforms provide,” she said. “Collectively the faculty have said that they are hungry to innovate how as well as whom they teach and that they are willing and eager to try out new technologies, new methods and new formats to make Rice students’ educational experience richer and more rewarding, even while broadening access to some Rice course content.”

Rice joined Coursera in July 2012 and announced five pilot courses. Enrollment in Rice’s first massive open online course (MOOC) — An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python — topped 80,000, which is more students than Rice’s entire alumni population. That eight-week computer programming class was rated the best online course in the nation.

Rice became a member of edX in February this year and committed to four courses during its first year with the provider.

Rice does not currently charge a fee for the online courses, but students may have to pay a fee for classroom materials or for a certificate of completion.

The new courses that Rice has approved are listed below, along with the online platform where they will be offered. Visit coursera.org or edx.org for more information on the courses and registration.

* Signals and Systems (ELEC 301)
This overview of how the Internet has impacted the academic world by providing new means of communicating will include an innovative set of digital teaching materials that combine video lectures, open-source educational materials, simulation and programming exercises and advanced learning analytics for a core electrical and computer engineering course with a broad global audience.
Teacher: Rich Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Site: edX.

* Evolution of the Solar System and the Earth
This course is an introduction to the formation of the solar system and Earth. It will be developed in the context of the history of scientific discovery, beginning with the Big Bang theory and nucleosynthesis, followed by the development of the theory of gravitation and the two-millennia-long investigation of Earth’s shape and its position in the solar system, and on up to the geochemical cycles that have led to the unique modern world and those that influence the modern climate.
Teachers:
Rajdeep Dasgupta, assistant professor of Earth science; Cin-Ty Lee, professor of Earth science; Adrian Lenardic, professor of Earth science; Alan Levander, the Carey Croneis Professor of Earth Science; and Francis Albarede, the Wiess Visiting Professor in Rice’s Department of Earth Science and professor and director of Ecole Normale de Lyon.
Site:
edX.

* Physics 102x
This course serves as an introduction to electricity and magnetism, following the standard second semester college physics sequence. It begins with electric charge in matter, the forces between charges, the electric field and the electric potential. Electric current and resistance are introduced, and then the course moves to the magnetic field and induction.
Teacher:
Jason Hafner, associate professor of physics and astronomy and of chemistry.
Site:
edX.

* Chemistry 122
This course covers the second semester of General Chemistry at Rice and will include videos and associated instructional materials about chemistry concept development and application for use in the “flipped classroom” format.
Teacher:
John Hutchinson, professor of chemistry.
Site: Coursera.

* Hands-on Laboratory Course for Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering
This is the lab course for the introductory course Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering (ELEC 241). It is expected to be the first online course to offer a hands-on lab with a circuit board that attaches to the computer so that electrons can flow through wires in circuits that students build, test, measure and troubleshoot.
Teacher:
Don Johnson, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of statistics.
Site:
Coursera.

* Paradigms in Biochemistry and Cell Biology
This course explains the central dogma of molecular biology — “DNA makes RNA makes protein” — in preparation for upper-level courses required for biochemistry and cell biology degrees and for entry into research experience.
Teacher: Kathleen Matthews, the Stewart Memorial Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.
Site:
edX.

* Philosophy 301 / Socrates
This course will introduce students to Socrates, considered to be one of the most important figures in world history. He revolutionized ethics and intellectual method and invented western philosophy. He remains among the most famous names of classical antiquity, but the particulars of his life and of his philosophical practices and doctrines are not well-known or understood.
Teachers: Don Morrison, professor of philosophy and classical studies, and Harvey Yunis, the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in Humanities, professor of classics and chair of the Department of Classical Studies.
Site: To be determined.

* Algorithmic Thinking (COMP 182)
Algorithms are used today to solve many problems from a broad and diverse set of disciplines, including biology, medicine and sociology. This course introduces students to the process by which a problem is transformed from a domain-specific description to a computer solution via mathematical modeling and algorithm design and analysis.
Teacher:
Luay Nakhleh, associate professor of computer science and of ecology and evolutionary biology.
Site:
Coursera.

* Fundamentals of Immunology
This course will present immunology, a critical subject for health professionals and biomedical researchers, at a comprehensive junior-senior level. The background information provided through this course has been especially helpful for students entering medical school.
Teacher:
Alma Novotny, lecturer of biochemistry and cell biology.
Site:
edX.

* Religion and Hip-Hop Culture
Hip-hop culture has become a language shaping the culture of places as divergent as South Korea, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Africa and Latin America. This course aims to introduce students to the connections between hip-hop and religion through attention to both academic discussions on the topic and the perspectives of hip-hop artists.
Teacher:
Anthony Pinn, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of religious studies.
Site:
edX.

* Parallel Programming (Comp 322)
Multicore processors have made parallel computing ubiquitous, and a basic knowledge of parallel programming and algorithms is becoming a core requirement for all engineering and science undergraduate majors. The only prerequisite for this introductory course on the fundamentals of parallel programming is knowledge of sequential programming. The goal is to introduce students to the fundamentals of parallel programming and parallel algorithms by exposing them to the intellectual challenges of parallelism without enmeshing them in the lower-level details of today’s parallel systems. A strong grasp of the course fundamentals should enable students to pick up any specific parallel programming model that they might encounter in the future.
Teacher: Vivek Sarkar, professor of computer science and the E.D. Butcher Chair in Engineering.
Site: edX.

* Troubleshooting Workshop for Clinically Relevant Biomedical Equipment (BIOE 449)
This bioengineering course on the troubleshooting, repair and maintenance of standard biomedical equipment used in hospitals in the developed and developing worlds will focus on five pieces of standard hospital equipment: suction pumps, centrifuges, microscopes, oxygen concentrators and infusion pumps. The course will initially be offered to students at Rice and at Jimma University and Tegbare-id Polytechnic in Ethiopia. In the long term, the course will offer basic troubleshooting, repair and maintenance skills to biomedical engineering students and continuing education to existing biomedical technicians in low-resource settings who may not have access to such training programs now.
Teachers:
Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor and chair of Rice’s Department of Bioengineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering; Ann Saterbak, professor in the practice of bioengineering education; and Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering and director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.
Site:
Coursera.
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This release can be found online at news.rice.edu.

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About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.