United States is ranked 31 among the developed nations for its science and math education standards. While lack of resources during the tough economic times has contributed to part of the problem, majority of the experts believe that the teachers have failed to create a passion and understanding for the subjects among PreK-12 students. As a result, a significant proportion of these students do not take up science and technology programs in college. Educators such as Walter Lewin want students to understand and love science, and are using the power and accessibility of the internet to make learning accessible to everyone.
Lewin is a Dutch American astrophysicist and a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Delft University of Technology in Netherlands. He joined MIT in 1966 as a post-doctoral student, and went on to become a faculty member. He received several awards for his contribution to physics and astronomy including the prestigious NASA Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, Alexander von Humboldt Award, and the Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Lewin’s recorded lectures have always been popular. His lectures were telecasted by UWTV, Seattle for over six years, reaching about 4 million people. The MIT Cable TV also aired Lewin’s lectures for 15 years. After MIT launched its Open Courseware, Lewin’s Physics 1, 2 and 3 lectures became accessible to millions of viewers across the globe. Lewin’s lively and fun teaching style has been responsible for the immense popularity of his online videos. He has also managed to explain complicated concepts of physics, and create an inherent love for the subject even among complete novices.
His videos have received more than 5 million hits on the MIT Open Course website. Thousands of students across the globe have contacted him via email to express their gratitude. The videos have an additional one million views on other portals such as YouTube and iTunes. He also received the first-ever Educator Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence in 2011 for his contribution to free online education.
Although millions of people love his lectures, they do not realize the amount of hard work that goes into creating the 100 lecture videos posted on MIT Open Courseware. Professor Lewin conducts the first dry-run for his lecture about 10 days before the actual presentation. He repeats the process three to four days before the actual lecture day, and again repeats it at 6 in the morning on the day of the lecture. This helps him practice the demonstrations perfectly, and time the lecture accurately. The process also cost about $100,000. However, Lewin believes that the free online lectures are worth the effort.
Lewin’s online videos have motivated millions of students across the world, and created a love for science and learning in them. They have also inspired them to explore other venues of online education. Lewin’s contribution to the field of education is, therefore, unsurpassable. At the age of 71, he is as motivated as ever to teach students across the globe and hopes to do it until he dies in the classroom.
- MIT Department of Physics – http://web.mit.edu/physics/people/faculty/lewin_walter.html
- MITOpenCourseWare – http://ocw.mit.edu/about/media-coverage/press-releases/lewin-award/
- US News and World Report – http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2008/01/10/a-new-physics-superstar