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Fundamentals of Biology now available in OCW Scholar format

Course is the last of seven OCW has published this year specifically to meet the needs of independent learners.
An illustration showing the double helix structure of DNA.
An illustration showing the double helix structure of DNA.
Image courtesy of the National Human Genome Research Institute

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) has released a new version of 7.01 Fundamentals of Biology in the innovative OCW Scholar format designed for independent learners. Presented by a team of notable faculty from the MIT Department of Biology, this undergraduate-level course focuses on the basic principles of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and recombinant DNA. Understanding these core concepts allows students to begin exploring more advanced topics in biology, for which many additional courses can found on OCW.

This Fundamentals of Biology course presents six outstanding MIT professors lecturing in their respective specialties. For example, Professor Eric Lander — perhaps best known as one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, which mapped the genetic structure and sequence of human DNA — delivers a series of introductory lectures on genetics. The chance to hear each of these professors, many of them recognized as pioneers for their groundbreaking research, deliver course material drawn from their own area of expertise presents a unique opportunity for the independent learner.

This new OCW Scholar course is divided into four major units that integrate MIT's three Introductory Biology classes, known as 7.012, 7.013 and 7.014. It provides a thorough grounding in basic biological concepts while showing how they figure in new and exciting research occurring in biology labs today. The course places a special emphasis on problem-solving skills and how they can be applied to understanding human disease, environmental quality and biodiversity.

OCW Scholar courses represent a new approach to OCW publication. MIT faculty, staff and students work closely with the OCW team to structure the course materials for independent learners. These courses offer more materials than typical OCW courses and include new custom-created content. The Fundamentals of Biology course provides a complete learning experience for independent learners. Each unit is divided into individual sessions, which focus on a topic or concept of biology. First, the users are presented with excerpts of lecture videos, followed by interactive concept quizzes. Problem sets and solutions enable students to practice what they have learned, while problem solving videos by graduate student teaching assistants provide extra help with difficult concepts. Lists of important terms and definitions are provided, as well as suggested topics and links for further study. Each unit ends with an exam to help students solidify their understanding of the lessons.

The first OCW Scholar courses were launched by MIT OpenCourseWare in January 2011, and have collectively received more than 800,000 visits in less than a year. The initial OCW Scholar courses included Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Solid State Chemistry, Single Variable Calculus and Multivariable Calculus.

Seven OCW Scholar courses were published in 2012. Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, Principles of Microeconomics, and Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science were published earlier this year. Fundamentals of Biology, Introduction to Psychology, and Introduction to Computer Science and Programming were published this past month. OCW Scholar courses are published on the OCW site with the support of the Stanton Foundation.

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