After several weeks of independent and sometimes chaotic coordination with peers, Minerva’s class of 2019 submitted ideas for tutorial courses on February 3. Current juniors in four of Minerva’s five colleges (excluding the College of Business) will take two to four tutorials their senior year, 2018-2019. Once students submit their ideas for tutorial courses, Minerva’s academic team will sort through requests, combine similar ideas, and hire faculty to teach the courses.
Modeled on their counterparts at Oxford and Cambridge, tutorials are designed to give students the opportunity to deeply pursue topics of their own choosing. Along with several other peers and an advising professor, students create and explore their own course syllabus. Tutorials, in concert with Capstone projects, allow Minerva seniors an amount of academic flexibility unprecedented in their prior three years of highly structured studies.
Business majors at Minerva do not have the opportunity to take tutorials—instead, they have practicums in which they will be evaluated on their own entrepreneurial undertaking.
“I’m excited to be able to cater the Minerva curriculum to my specific, narrow interests, and to have so much autonomy in deciding on the content and reading materials—the potential is endless,” says Vesi Nedelcheva, a junior majoring in social sciences.
A select number of juniors are currently enrolled in pilot tutorials whose subjects include: AI ethics, cryptography, and ‘Strategizing for Success in the 21st Century.’
“It has been really cool so far,” says Joie Okoro, who has been taking the pilot tutorial on evolutionary medicine, “The facilitation of the class itself is hugely based on individual preparation and contributions, so if you have good people, you have a good class.”
The tutorials present exciting opportunities, but students and faculty still have to overcome a number of challenges before the class of 2019 can enroll in the first iteration of class-wide tutorials starting Fall 2018.
“I’m nervous about how Minerva will pull it off logistically,” says Patricia Miraflores, a junior double-major in Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences.
Her concerns echo the questions of other students: which tutorials will Minerva eventually offer; who will teach them; and how the courses will function. Information shared by the Academic team throughout January via announcements and an open Q&A session clarified the basic structure of tutorials and how students should submit their tutorial ideas. But answers to the previous questions depend on the ideas for tutorials that students only just submitted.
Some students have expressed frustration with the process and constraints of creating meaningful tutorials. “We’ve been asking for information on tutorials for three years,” says Gabriella Grahek, a junior majoring Natural Sciences with a minor in Social Sciences, “We get one notification about tutorials in The Morning [the daily newsletter for official announcements] and have to turn around ideas in a matter of weeks. It’s a short amount of time for such a big decision, and there has been very little guidance on best strategies for designing a strong tutorial.”
To cope with rushed and difficult demands, two students created their own solution. Adrian Goedeckemeyer and Guy Davidson, junior Computational Sciences majors, created a process for both proposing tutorial ideas and filtering (accepting or refusing) collaborators by setting up the website “Tutorialize.” The intention is to ease the burden of what they called in an announcement, “the cacophonic stampede we’ve all been experiencing.”
The website allows students to propose tutorial topics, and other students to apply to be in those topics. The tutorial creators can anonymously reject students if they want to.
“This solution is in no way ideal, but it’s the best we could come up with so quickly,” say Goedeckemeyer and Davidson.