The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Review: MITx’s Online Circuit Design and Analysis Course

This latest experiment in remote learning is not for a casual audience

3 min read
Anant Agarwal led the first course to be offered under MITs new large-scale free online learning initiative.
Photo: M. Scott Brauer/MIT

MIT’s Anant Agarwal has a thing for chain saws. The professor of electrical engineering and computer science said so himself as he welcomed his vast horde of online students. And it was a horde: More than 150 000 of us from dozens of countries had signed up for MIT’s inaugural MOOC, or massively open online course, which began in early March and ended in June. The course, dubbed 6.002x, was an adaptation of MIT’s undergraduate class in circuit design and analysis and was part of the university’s MITx initiative, which aims to offer anyone with an Internet connection access to a selection of its courses. Participants were lured by some powerful enticements: the prestige of MIT, the opportunity to learn from a renowned professor, and the price—free. Although MIT has made course materials publicly available for over a decade, this is its first online class involving scheduled instruction, supervision, and testing. Only participants who formally signed up for the 6.002x course can earn a credential certifying successful completion; MIT has not announced when the course will be offered again.

In an early recorded lecture, which plays as a YouTube video, Agarwal dons full Blues Brothers regalia to demonstrate noise margins, a chain saw his source of system noise as he bobs to a disco tune, while laughter resounds in the classroom. But any 6.002xers who mistook his professorial charisma for a lack of seriousness, expecting a gentle tiptoe through circuitry basics, were swiftly disillusioned. The curriculum, identical to that of the classroom MIT course, was challenging. Spanning almost the entirety of the 1000-page course textbook, which Agarwal coauthored, each of the 14 weeks of class included 2 to 4 hours of lectures, online exercises interspersed with lecture sequences, a homework problem set, and an online lab, which involved building and testing simulated circuits. Optional video tutorials supplemented the lectures with solved problems and math refreshers. Midterm and final examinations rounded out the busy calendar.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

Keep Reading ↓Show less