This fall, thousands of students around the world will have a chance to whip chocolate emulsions under the guidance of culinary experts and Harvard professors with the launch of SPU27x: “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.” The introduction of SPU27x will mark edX’s first course with a lab component.
EdX, the nonprofit, online learning initiative launched by Harvard and MIT approaching its one-year anniversary this May, has rapidly expanded to 12 institutional partners and over 800,000 learners.
Physics professor David A. Weitz, who co-teaches the course, characterized SPU27x as “a way to teach science to people who otherwise do not normally engage with it,” and said that he thinks that the course’s popularity on campus suggests it may have a large global appeal.
“Teaching science of cooking is a good way to teach science: it’s effective, people are engaged, and it hits many of the high points of basic science education in a way that people are able to relate to and understand,” said Michael P. Brenner, a professor at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences who co-teaches the class with Weiz.
Brenner and Weitz said that the logistics of the laboratory elements of SPU27x are still under discussion and will face certain challenges when applied on an international scale. Specifically, they pointed to the unavailability of certain ingredients in certain countries and the variability of cooking equipment among students as issues the course will have to overcome.
Weitz and Brenner also said that developing the course for edX will lead to improvements to the course offered on campus. For example, some segments will be filmed inside the restaurants of featured guest chefs. And rather than limiting one class to a chef’s presentation and the next to scientific analysis, cohesive 10-minute videos of both can be combined in one meeting.
These videos, according to Weitz, could also allow for scientifically inclined students to dive more deeply into the material if interested.
“The videos could provide a deeper explanation of the science that someone without that background wouldn’t watch” he said.
—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amna_hashmi.
—Staff writer Cynthia W. Shih can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @CShih7.