Reclaim Open Learning

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Mechanics Academy

September 20, 2013 by Courtney Santos

Harish Narayanan, Mechanics Academy

Mechanics Academy aims to be a stimulating and fun environment where students learn topics in mechanics and applied mathematics. The site is motivated by my belief that students will be excited to learn these theoretical fields once they realize how relevant and integral they are to our lives.

Mechanics Academy offers a collection of open-access learning material in these fields, particularly emphasizing the power of mathematical modeling and computational methods in answering interesting practical questions. This learning material is aimed at university-level students (undergraduate and graduate), and is comprised both of existing high-quality OER and original course material.

In order to engage students, Mechanics Academy incorporates interactive, application-relevant simulations alongside other material covering classical theory. These simulations are powered by a web-based scientific computing service[4] that runs different open source simulation code (in Python, Octave or R) and returns results that can be beautifully rendered right within the students’ web browsers. This allows students to learn by freely trying things out, without the hassle of installing complex mathematical and scientific software on their own devices.

For much of this young project’s life, I have single-handedly worked on all aspects of it, including cataloguing existing OER, talking to university students to identify gaps and motivate original material, and building the underlying simulation technology. But as these ideas are now starting to crystallize, I am encouraging other professors and motivated students to contribute their expertise. Some specific examples of these include (a) Wrapping the simulation technology as an open-source edX XBlock, so others can easily incorporate it alongside their own learning material, (b) Working with professors at the University of Oslo to augment their graduate fluid mechanics class with a turbulence simulation component and (c) Refining the content management system powering the site so that anyone motivated can easily contribute to it.

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