Crystal Structure Analysis is course 5.069 in MIT OCW (open courseware). It consists in auxiliary material for the full course, as taught in 2010. The course is on crystal structure determination by X-ray diffraction, at graduate level. The material available is a set of presentations in pdf; it is not designed to be used alone, but as a complement to the actual course. Other stuff, like syllabus, course calendar and information about exams, are of little interest to students not enrolled in the course.
Type of Material:
The material is mainly constituted of 9 pdf files, in a section named Lecture Notes. It is actually lecture notes, designed to be used in conjunction with course lectures. It does not include a complete, ordered presentation of the subject, but it may be precious as complementary material. No interactive materials, no drills or tasks for students are present.
The main use of the site would be as a depository for the documents used in class. A professor trying to plan a crystallography course may find the syllabus quite useful as well as the notes. This cannot be used as homework and most definitely not as a self-directed study site.
Adobe pdf reader.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The goal is making the student able to use X-ray techniques for crystal analysis at an advanced level. The student will learn from the fundamental theory to practical aspects of the technique, and will be able to carry out the process up to publishing in Acta Cryst. or other journals. As the notes are strictly tied to the course they were used in, the site offers very limited use outside the class.
Target Student Population:
Graduate students who are interested in learning X-ray diffraction.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Since the material is geared tograduate students, the main prerequisite would be an undergraduate degree in chemistry. Furthermore, X-ray crystallography is mostly taught to analytical, physical and inorganic chemistry students that know the basics of symmetry groups. Overall the population served by this site will be very small - even smaller if we take into account that to practice the student would need to have access to the software used to solve X-ray crystal structures or have access to several sets of data.
The material is of very high quality. The summary of basic principles is excellent. The ideas, hints and suggestions are very stimulating, well thought, sometimes surprising. The student must remember this is only auxiliary material, not a full presentation.
The content is not meant to be complete, so the material should not be used as a complete textbook. Many figures have been cancelled because of copyright, and this makes some sections useless. There are a few errors, that may confuse students (e.g., the formula for the volume of the unit cell in the first slide of symm_handout2.pdf is wrong).
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The material is outstanding for the choice of relevant items in the field, a modern and stimulating discussion. It will be most useful for highly proficient students, who can catch the opportunity for enriching what they are studying elsewhere. Though much information is given as facts, it may push students to research deeper for the explanations.
The user will need a textbook and, preferably, a professor that can show and explain the process. This is not meant to be a self-taught course. The material is highly specialized and would interest a very small population.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Again, the site is a depository of material. There are no animations or anything fancy on the site that would require special software.
The student must understand by himself this is not a full textbook. He must also recognize that other material, also present in the site, is of little value if he is not in MIT. Reading a sequence of slides, and then finding out that the relevant figures are missing, may be frustrating. Highly specialized material and does not contain actual teaching materials such as exam, quizzes, or full presentations that the user could find beneficial.
Other Issues and Comments:
This is an excellent learning tool, but it was not designed as a self-consistent learning tool: it may be a valuable addition to a learning environment that contains, of its own, a full introduction to X-ray crystallography. Students must be able to find basic information elsewhere. It is also necessary to recognize a few errors and correct them. Missing figures because of copyright should be searched by the student elsewhere. Sections on Patterson maps and structure refinement are particularly good.
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