In this section, Dr. Jeremy Orloff and Dr. Jonathan Bloom discuss targeted course readings and online reading questions.
Students were expected to complete a reading before each Tuesday/Thursday class. Each reading was roughly ten pages in length and intended to be fairly quick, with lots of examples and lots of white space. In class, we assumed the students had done the reading, that they had looked through the examples, and that they could dive into working on a problem right away. We did a minimal amount of lecturing in class.
We wrote the readings ourselves. This allowed us to cover precisely the content we wanted to cover, in precisely the way we wanted it covered. Our understanding is that students generally like targeted readings more than videos; targeted readings focus on exactly what the students need and can be reviewed more quickly than videos.
Alongside the readings, we posted online reading questions through our MITx site. These were multiple choice or numerical answer questions that were automatically graded through the site, and students were expected to complete them before class. The questions were intended to be relatively easy for anyone who had done the reading or already knew the material, but difficult for everyone else. For example, a problem might be the same as one in the reading but with different numbers. A version of the interactive reading questions is available on the Readings page of this OCW course.
These questions reinforced the idea that the purpose of students' initial reading was to get a sense of the material and to be able to answer some basic questions. We did not expect students to master the material by reading it on their own. What we did expect was for them to come to class ready to gain mastery through activities and explanations. Searching the reading for the information they needed to answer each reading question helped prepare students to contribute to and benefit from the activity in class.