Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about an idea MathematicsAminPhysics came up with - a "MSE University". I think there was a meta post as well, though it seems to be deleted.

While this idea grew out of that, it is not that, so please keep reading with an open mind.

The idea to me seemed a bit confused, and biting off way more than anyone could chew. As I said in the chatroom linked above:

[I] feel like this whole thing needs to start over, under more experienced leadership [...] I think aiming to make it a full "university", offering every subject all the time, would be quite hard - walk before you run, as the saying goes.

(Note that I make no claim to be that more experienced leadership.)

So with this idea in mind, what would walking look like? As I said in chat:

A good structure might be to have a list of volunteers, each with their specialties listed, and when a critical mass of students/volunteers has been reached, a "course" can be started in a topic the group agrees upon. Then, the teacher would give a topic to study, resources to check, be there prepared to answer questions, and offer some sort of quiz to check understanding. The student would be expected to teach themselves the topic, do practice problems, and meet deadlines decided.


[I] think a way to consider my version of the idea is less a university and more a study group with a guide to help.

The question from here is

How is this different from you picking up a book and self studying and then asking questions on the main site?

My answer would be

[I]t's the difference between an ocean and a stream: the main site and self learning in general is a flood of resources, answers, things that might or might not click with you. a volunteer is more controlled, helping to guide you - they are someone who can respond without a bounty when you ask for a different explanation, or might provide the best resource for your level, helping to check if you missed a piece of the subject you had to learn, and so forth. [I]t's a format conducive to discussion and exploration. [I]t's like the difference between learning spanish by reading a book and occasionally asking a question on a forum and reading the book and also having discussions with a native speaker of spanish. [E]veryone sane would choose the latter.

So, to summarize how exactly this would work:

  1. As a trial, we can find one or two volunteers to "teach" (better word, anyone?) exactly one course to around ten students. Each student would be assigned a reading from a book, and they would read, work problems, and come back the next week to discuss, ask and answer questions, and so on. At the end, there could be some sort of quiz.
  2. If this works, we can set up a meta post with a list of interested teachers and their specializations and interested students, with a chatroom where they can get together and form the critical mass for a new class. Another meta post would list suggested/upcoming classes.
  3. If this, too, works well, then it can be expanded into something more regular, that could even possibly be expanded to other sites.

What do you think?

Discussion welcome in this chatroom - ping me any time. Thanks to Will Hunting, amWhy, Simply Beautiful Art, ACuriousMind, skullpatrol, AJ Henderson, and others for their exceedingly helpful comments, both in a recent conversation and in the whole history of the idea of "MSE University".

Interested in joining as a volunteer/student?

Check out A call for volunteers - "study group" coordinators and advisors

Our first class can be found here.

  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the people over at MathematicsEducators.SE would also be interested in this idea? $\endgroup$ Aug 25 '17 at 15:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What you are suggesting, is already happening in the main math chat, in topic chat rooms, and in a couple other chat rooms (support, help, hints, resources, etc). The only thing that might be different in your suggestion is the notion of having readings "assigned", and some sort of evaluation for feedback. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Aug 25 '17 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ I do acknowledge that what you are suggesting, in terms of "discussion groups" as you describe: there would be less noise, and it'd be a place where everyone participating is on the "same page" (discussing assigned readings). I do support the idea, and I think a trial with one such discussion would help fine tune the process. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Aug 25 '17 at 18:11
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ (good first header btw) "coordinate" is the term I might suggest in your point #1. $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 25 '17 at 19:37
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Please, if you disagree with this enough to downvote, state what you disagree with and why. We can use your comments and answers to improve the idea! $\endgroup$ Aug 26 '17 at 15:47

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