Survey to assess declining 6-1 enrollment goes undergrad-wide

A survey created to assess declining enrollment in Course 6-1 (Electrical Engineering) has been repurposed into an undergraduate-wide survey regarding students’ perceptions of academic majors.

Dennis Freeman, dean for undergraduate education, and Institutional Research sent the survey in an email to undergraduates Oct. 31.

The survey was initially proposed by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) as a means of evaluating Course 6-1, Jon Daries, Associate Director of Institutional Research, wrote in an email to the The Tech.

The EECS survey was developed by a committee co-chaired by Anantha Chandrakasan, the department head of EECS, and Asu Ozdaglar, MIT professor and incoming associate head of EECS.

“The number of students enrolling in 6-1 has been dropping,” Chandrakasan said in an email to The Tech. In response, the committee was created with the aim of “revitalizing the undergraduate curriculum in EE.”

The committee is heading a new effort to “create an exciting vision for the future of EE along with new class offerings” at both foundational and advanced levels. One of their goals is to “give a more integrative experience for students,” Chandrakasan said.

Course 6-1 currently has 78 majors enrolled; for comparison, Course 6-2 has 440 majors, and Course 6-3 has 667 majors.

The survey sought student input on the current curriculum and tried to elucidate student perceptions of EE.

While creating the survey, EECS and IR realized that questions directed only at EECS students “are not as useful without the context of what students in other majors think,” Daries said. The survey questions were therefore generalized for the entire undergraduate student body.

The survey data will be used to “to aid departments as they evaluate their curricular offerings,” Daries said.

The survey asks students why they chose their current major, prompting them to rate their agreement with a series of statements, including “I want to be financially well-off,” “advice I received from parents,” and “I want a rigorous curriculum.”

The survey also asks students to write in the most valuable and the least valuable subject they have taken at MIT.

This new effort to assess student perceptions of EE and explore new course offerings is not a continuation of the recent course-wide restructuring. “Students generally seem happy with our changes and our goal is not to change the template,” Chandrakasan said.

The committee is currently evaluating many proposals for new classes and is discussing them weekly with EE faculty. The committee is “also getting valuable input from the USAGE group,” Chandrakasan said, in addition to having focus-group discussions with students run by an external consulting group.

The department want to “make sure the classes we offer reflect how broad EE is,” Chandrakasan said. Potential new offerings might incorporate online learning, or be based around student projects.

The department has piloted experimental courses in the past. This semester, one experimental offering is Circuits and Electronics, 6.S064. The content of the course is the same as the traditional offering of 6.002, but students learn the content online through the edX platform, according to the course website. The course professor and TA are available to answer questions on campus, but the entirety of the course is taken online.

“We very much value student input as we make changes,” Chandrakasan concluded.