Preparation of a Nanocourse

Preparation of a Nanocourse

  • Nanocourses are 6-hour courses over 2 days that cover a single specific topic. The nanocourse director will bring together two or more members of the faculty to cover the topic over approximately three hours of lecture time during the first meeting of the nanocourse. One of these must be a DMS faculty member.   A second, discussion-based meeting lasting approximately three hours will serve as a tool to evaluate (pass or fail) students taking the course for credit. We encourage the courses to be interactive between faculty and students and also between participating faculty.
  • While three hours of lecture does not allow one to be comprehensive, this time frame is sufficient to cover narrow topics with reasonable depth and breadth. It is essential that the lectures represent a coherent intellectual unit. Nanocourse participants should leave with an idea of where the field stands, as well as the nature of the current debates in that field. The lectures should not be an assembly of research seminars, no matter how sophisticated.   
  • It is advisable to take into account other nanocourses offered in the same semester as your proposed course. You are welcome to organize multiple courses highlighting different aspects of your particular field of interest.
  • We recommend that at least two lecturers participate in a nanocourse. We encourage the participation of all lecturers in both days of a nanocourse.
  • About one month before a nanocourse begins, we ask that the nanocourse director and all lecturers meet with the assigned Curriculum Fellow. We have found that an approximately 1 hour meeting is the speediest way to inform all lecturers of the format and goals of the nanocourse, as well as to begin unifying content between the lectures. The format of the second discussion-based meeting of the nanocourse is also discussed at this meeting.
  • For didactic purposes it is essential that all participating faculty know what others will be covering in their lectures. This is absolutely indispensable for an intellectually cohesive course. Therefore we ask that faculty members share their lecture slides with each other in advance of the first session of the nanocourse. After the first session, the lecturers will be asked to submit their slides to the CF to be posted for the students on the nanocourse website.
  • Before the first session, each lecturer will be asked to select one review article to be posted as background reading on the topic of the course.
  • The content of the second session assignment varies depending on the particular course.  The CF will help to guide a conversation of the course lecturers to develop an appropriate assignment for the registered students.  Because the students receive credit for these nanocourses, the students must complete some component of work in advance of the second session.  This also helps ensure maximal student engagement.  The students should also receive feedback on this work from the lecturers in the course. 
  • Credit is on a pass/fail basis and will be based on attendance and satisfactory completion of the second-session assignment. The Curriculum Fellow will track attendance and submit grades to the DMS office.
  • At the end of the second session, students will complete evaluations. The Curriculum Fellow reads and compiles these evaluations. A concise report of the student evaluations will be emailed to each nanocourse lecturer. Participating faculty are also asked to complete nanocourse evaluations.
  • In order to maintain the quality of nanocourses, we also ask that each lecturer agree to participate in peer review of their fellow nanocourse lecturers by providing feedback to each other on the proposed course materials and the delivery of these materials after the course is taught.