D-Lab Pilots "Learn-It" Self-Teaching Tools

Written by Benji Moncivaiz

Everyone learns differently. People can learn by observing other people learn - some people love discussions, while others prefer listening to lectures. In actual fact, people learn best when they experience the material through various means - by listening, speaking, reading, and doing.

We are excited to unveil a new collection of curricula: Learn-Its. Learn-its are self-guided resources that provide an integrated introduction to basic mechanical design elements; they bridge the gap between superficial how-tos and super-detailed technical guides. They give students the right vocabulary to ask targeted questions in the workshop and online, while outlining detailed tips and explanations of physical phenomena driving how different mechanisms, tools, materials, and fasteners work. Students are provided with enough information to critically select the right material, adhesive, or tool for their project. The Learn-Its currently take the form of Learn-It videos online and Learn-It boards in the D-Lab workshop and we are excited to continue developing additional Learn-Its and supporting material.

It was surprisingly tricky to immediately identify the depth and breadth of information that should be included in the Learn-Its, so we adopted a "release early, release often" philosophy. We put up our very initial raw prototypes and had students respond to them via note cards and personal conversations - with those comments we improved them, held focus groups, and had additional conversations. Rinse and repeat! Unsurprisingly, as we cycled feedback, new iteration, feedback, new iteration, each Learn-It improved by leaps and bounds. "Thanks!" to the students who were free with their constructive feedback - it was great to work with you!

We'd also like to send a big "Thank you!" to the MIT Alumni Class Funds, whose grant has made this project possible.

Check out the Learn-It "Mechanisms" videos on D-Lab's channel on TechTV and swing by the D-Lab workshop for a closer look at our Learn-It boards.