12.000 | Fall 2003 | Undergraduate

Solving Complex Problems


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Course Overview

Solving Complex Problems is designed to be a predominantly self-paced, active learning experience. There are no lectures and no problem sets. During the first week of classes, students are divided into ten teams, each of which is responsible for some aspect of the overall design. Each team is assigned one or more Alumni Mentors and one or two Upperclass Teaching Fellows (UTFs).

Course Introduction by Prof. Kip Hodges

Alumni Mentors

Alumni Mentors are former MIT students who volunteer their time and expertise to serve as information resources for students in 12.000. Their role is not to suggest solutions, but to act as a sounding board for ideas developed by the students and to guide them toward appropriate strategies for making well-informed decisions.

Upperclass Teaching Fellows

UTFs are MIT sophomores, juniors, and seniors – typically alumni of 12.000 – who act as coaches for the teams. Their roles are to help the students develop effective teams, to encourage cross-team communication, and to facilitate inter-team coordination.

Course Structure

There are four types of class meetings:

  • General Information Sessions are designed to introduce students to critical problem-solving and communication skills. They include sessions dedicated to effective library research, to proper referencing protocols, and to web site development.
  • Perspectives Sessions are dedicated to whole-class discussions of case studies germane to the Mission topic.
  • Team Meetings are sessions in which individual teams work as small groups with their UTFs.
  • Full Meetings are sessions in which the teams get together to coordinate their work and develop presentation strategies.


Based on staff and expert panel evaluations of the final presentation and web site, the entire class will receive a class grade. Similarly, each team will be given a grade based on how well it satisfied its responsibilities, as will each student. The final 12.000 grade for each student will be computed as the weighted mean of the class grade (40%), his or her team’s grade (30%), and his or her individual grade (30%).