Thanks for visiting our course page. Please note that all course material will always be accessible here, but if you want edX certificates for any part(s) of the course you must also register for MCB80.1x, MCB80.2x, or both, on edX. Thanks for your patience!
Hello and welcome to MCB80x! Before we launch, we’d like to share with you our course syllabus and some information that will help manage your expectations in regards to content, scheduling, and capacity. We will have two courses running concurrently: a second version of our first part, MCB80.2x, and a first version of our second part, MCB80.2x.
Content and material for MCB80x.1x is currently available and open to you to study at your own pace and an exam period will last from 8/11/14 to 8/24/14. We will open MCB80.2x on September 3rd, 2014, and we will leave registration open throughout the duration of the course, which will end on December 14, 2014. A final interactive exam will be given for MCB80.2x from 12/01/2014 through 12/15/2014 for those of you who have completed the course (see explanation below). This means that anyone can ‘join’ the course at any time while the courses are running.
We will release a new lesson every two weeks from September 3rd (9/3, 9/7, 10/1, 10/15, and 10/29). Lessons will include video content, interactive content, virtual lab content, forum spaces associated with the lessons, and in Lessons 3 and 4, labs and lab content. You can complete all lessons at your own pace, but if you choose to follow along with the rollout, you’ll be able to engage with us and other students at roughly the same time in the forums.
Completion of lessons is determined by your movement through milestones within that lesson (i.e. by watching videos in full and completing interactive segments). You can move around within the lesson at your own pace; the only reason we ask you to complete the lessons is so that we can then determine whether or not you have completed enough of the course to be able to take a final interactive exam.
If you would like a certificate for parts of the course, you have to take the exam(s), and you will have to complete 75% of the lessons in order to take the exam. We will ask using the honor system how much of the course you have completed. You can track your lesson progress on your personalized dashboard every time you login.
A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.
The first module of MCB80x will have an exam period in August 2014. You can see a sneak preview of what the course will be like, below.
Let's face it: MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) promise disruption, and yet most of them to date deliver an extremely traditional learning experience. Basically, it's the big-lecture-hall format, with an internet-sized lecture hall.
However, many of us in higher education never were happy about the big-lecture-hall format in the first place. Lecturing to an audience of hundreds is a impersonal experience for all involved; the interaction is usually almost completely unidirectional, and the material must be lowered to the lowest common denominator. Make no mistake: there are many professors who are masters of this format, who can inspire mass audiences. However, I'd wager that most of them still wish they could engage with their students in a smaller format. The big-hall lecture is a practical necessity, but it is in no way ideal. In many ways, the big lecture is academia's dirty laundry; many of the most memorable experiences in a Harvard education come from smaller seminar experiences, not to mention interactions with peers.
Our goal is to reboot the MOOC and leverage the advantages of the internet, rather than just shoveling the same old lecture format onto the web. It's going to be a long journey, and we're almost certainly not going to get it right the first time, but we're excited about the possibilities. We invite you to join us in this experiment and we welcome your feedback and help in making an online learning space that lives up to the hype.
In MCB80x, we're piloting a style of instruction that we call "Guided Interactivity", where in interactive simulations are seamlessly woven into the flow of instruction. We will walk you through the process of building up a neuron, piece by piece, allowing you to dynamically explore the function of the nervous system.
While lectures are tied to the physical environment lecture hall, the internet has no such limitations. With the internet, we can bring you into the laboratory, or to a museum, or to a doctor's office. Neuroscience happens in the world, and we want to take you to see it firsthand.
Humans have a natural desire to contribute. With MCB80x, we will invite students to conduct their own experiments at home and in their own schools, using DIY hardware from our partners at Backyard Brains. In addition to experiencing real experiments firsthand, students will be invited to film and contribute back their experiments.
MCB80x is largely a labor of love created by a small group of core staff, along with a larger group of creative professionals who generously contribute their time to making this course happen.
David Cox is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and of Computer Science, and is a member of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University. His laboratory seeks to understand the computational underpinnings of visual processing through concerted efforts in both reverse- and forward-engineering. To this end, his group employs a wide range of experimental techniques (ranging from microelectrode recordings in living brains to visual psychophysics in humans) to probe natural systems, while at the same time actively developing practical computer vision systems based on what is learned about the brain.
HarvardX Fellow, Producer
Nadja Oertelt is a HarvardX Fellow and producer for MCB80x. She graduated from MIT in 2007 with a degree in Neuroscience has studied visual arts, film, anthropology and archaeology. She has worked as an independent documentary producer and director for the past decade.
Content Development Assistant
Winston Yan graduated from Harvard in 2010 with a degree in Physics and is currently a 3rd year student in the Harvard-MIT MD/PhD program. He has finished the first two years of medical school in the HST program and is about to start his PhD in the lab of Professor Feng Zhang at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT & Broad Institute. Winston will be working on developing and applying molecular and optical techniques to studying molecular and cellular changes in neural circuits during healthy behaviors, like learning and memory, and neuropsychiatric diseases.
© 2014 President and Fellows of Harvard College.