Pavel Taranenko: Experience of Creating MOOC on Theoretical Mechanics

In 2014, UNESCO listed Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) as one of the 30 promising trends of education development until 2028. At South Ural State University, the creation of such courses is one of the priorities, reflected in the Development Roadmap. Teaching staff of the Institute of Engineering and Technology has developed a MOOC on Theoretical Mechanics. We talked to Pavel Taranenko, the Head of the Department of Theoretical Mechanics about the development of the course.


– Could you please tell us what MOOC is?

– Today, online courses are actively being introduced into the modern educational process. Students are highly interested in this format of learning, so it is necessary to use them to make the process of obtaining knowledge more attractive and accessible. MOOC is a training course with massive interactive participation using e-learning technologies and open access via the Internet, one of the forms of online education.


– Whom is the MOOC on Theoretical Mechanics designed for, and when was the decision made on creating it?

Theoretical Mechanics is one of the main disciplines in engineering training; many general engineering disciplines, such as Strength of Materials, Structural Mechanics, Hydraulics, Theory of Mechanisms and Machines, and more, are based on its laws and principles.

The course is designed for Bachelor’s degree and Specialist students of higher educational institutions obtaining education in technical areas of training, as well as for attendees interested in self-development in the discipline.

The course examines classical methods for studying the equilibrium and motion of solids and mechanical systems and forms the understanding of mechanical models of material objects in the real world.

The decision on creating the course was made in January 2021.

– So, does one need to have basic knowledge in this area?

– Certainly, but at the same time, the course is designed for students with different educational potential and motivation. Browsing the materials of the course, passing tests, one can check and consolidate their knowledge obtained through the traditional form of education, i.e., MOOC is an additional source of information. For those who, for some reason, could not understand the discipline in the traditional form of education or did not study it at all, MOOC allows to remotely master it to the required level within a short period of time.


– How many people worked on the course?

– The main bulk of the work was done by 3 people and 2 more were on standby.


– What is the structure of the course?

– The online course consists of an introductory part and three classic sections of Theoretical Mechanics: Statics, Kinematics and Dynamics. Each section is represented by several topics. The topics contain videos of lectures, practices and practical tests for self-examination. All in all, there are 15 lectures with a total duration of 225 minutes and 20 videos of practical exercises with a total duration of 290 minutes, i.e., each video takes an average of 15 minutes to watch.


– How is the clarity of the presentation of the material achieved?

– Each lecture is illustrated with a large number of figures, diagrams, formulas. Lectures are given by the teacher at the virtual board, on which important definitions, formulas, figures appear sequentially, in small portions, which helps perceive and assimilate the material better.

Practical lessons are given using presentations. Each video of the practical lesson is devoted to solving one problem. The teacher appears at the beginning of the lesson, presenting the topic and purpose of the lesson, and at the end of the lesson to give the summary. All presentations are animated, and formulas and figures appear sequentially as the material is explained. The tasks to be solved are taken from real engineering structures and objects.

Lecture notes and practical exercises are included in the course.


– Is passing the tests obligatory in the course?

– Tests are not only a tool for measuring the level of knowledge in a discipline, section, topic, but also an important learning element, especially in terms of distance learning. In total, there are 21 tests in the course, 17 of which are practical tests for self-examination, three of which are control tests for each section and one is the final test for the entire course. To get access to the control tests, it is necessary to successfully solve practical tests, while a sufficient number of attempts is given. And in order to pass the final test for the entire course, one needs to pass the tests in sections. Therefore, to successfully master the course, students will have to pass all the tests.


– What difficulties did you face while creating the course?

– The difficulty of creating an electronic course for such a discipline as Theoretical Mechanics lies in the fact that when giving lectures and practical lessons, the educational material should be illustrated with a variety of formulas, diagrams and figures. To master the material better, demonstration and explanatory elements should be presented to attendees gradually, complementing each other. 90% of the questions in tests are tasks with figures, diagrams and formulas, theoretical questions also contain formulas and figures. That is why, the creation of MOOC on Theoretical Mechanics and similar general engineering and special disciplines requires a lot of time and a lot of preliminary preparation. We hope that our experience will be useful in creating similar courses for technical disciplines.


– Up to date, how many people have completed the MOOC on Theoretical Mechanics?

– The course was opened in April 2022, and at the end of June 150 people enrolled. At the moment, there are 260 participants. 67 people completed the course, including all stages of testing.


– Are you contemplating on creating another course in the near future?

– I would like to create a similar course on the Strength of Materials.

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