In 1996, the MIT subject 3.11 Mechanics of Materials in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering began using an experimental new textbook approach, written with a strongly increased emphasis on the materials aspects of the subject. It also included several topics such as finite element methods, fracture mechanics, and statistics that are not included in most traditional Mechanics of Materials texts. These nontraditional aspects were designed to fit the curriculum in Materials Science and Engineering, although admittedly Mechanics instructors in other departments and schools might not find all of them suitable for their own subjects. Further, a number of topics may be of interest in educational curricula and industrial practice outside traditional Mechanics subjects.
One approach to increasing the flexibility and adaptability of this materials-oriented text is to make discrete and coherent portions of it available as stand-alone, web-available modules. Instructors could then pick and choose among topics, and assemble a subject offering in whatever way they choose. It would also be possible for instructors of specialty engineering subjects, for instance bridge or aircraft design, to add modules on mechanics of materials aimed at their own needs.
A series of such modules are now being developed under a National Science Foundation Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) grant aimed at strengthening the links in the engineering curriculum between materials and mechanics. Each module is intended to be capable of standing alone, so that it will usually be unnecessary to work through other modules in order to use any particular one. This approach will be outlined and demonstrated, both as an approach to the specific topic of a mechanics-materials linkage, and as a possibility for more general implementation in distance learning.