18.031 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

System Functions and the Laplace Transform

Instructor Insights

Instructor Interview

Dr. Philip Pearce demonstrates a tuned mass damper, a device consisting of two coupled oscillators that is the course’s unofficial mascot. (Photo by Sarah Hansen, MIT OpenCourseWare.)

In the following video, Dr. Jennifer French, Dr. Jeremy Orloff, Prof. Haynes Miller, and Dr. Philip Pearce describe various aspects of how 18.031 System Functions and the Laplace Transform was taught in Spring 2018.

Facilitating a Blended Learning Experience

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"One of the great virtues of having online questions … is that students see right away whether they understand something or not."
— Prof. Haynes Miller

Student Interview

Below, student Madeleine Schroeder reflects on her experiences in the course.

I am a first-year student and I plan to major in aerospace and astronautics. I decided to take this course because I was only taking four courses when the second half of the semester began and I wanted a little extra work to do. I have enjoyed 18.03 Differential Equations this semester and I thought it would be interesting to learn other methods of solving ODEs [ordinary differential equations] that have more accessible uses in engineering.

"Reading the lecture notes outside of class allowed me to work at my own pace."
— Madeleine Schroeder

I liked the course format as it allowed a lot of freedom in studying. Reading the lecture notes outside of class allowed me to work at my own pace, slowing down when I got confused and speeding up if I understood the material well. Having two hours of class as recitation was very helpful, as I was able to practice problem-solving methods with help present and work through concepts that I didn’t understand from the lecture notes.

My advice to other students is to take advantage of the flexibility of the course and the opportunity to work on learning material on your own. My advice to instructors is to provide more practice problems with solutions provided. These would be incredibly helpful in completing problem sets.


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 10% Online reading/problems
  • 20% Problem sets
  • 20% Mid-term quiz
  • 50% Final exam

Curriculum Information


None, but 18.03 Differential Equations is a corequisite.

Requirements Satisfied

Unrestricted elective credits


Once or twice per year, in the fall or spring semester or in the Independent Activities Period (IAP)

Student Information


Sixteen students took this course when it was taught in Spring 2018.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 3 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

Met 2 times per week for 1 hour per session; 12 sessions total; mandatory attendance.

Out of Class

Students completed online reading and practice problems before each class session.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019
Learning Resource Types
Instructor Insights