Like most members of the MIT community, I am aghast by the large fraction of the U.S. population that does not believe in climate change, the theory of evolution, or the age of the universe.
MITx is touted as a revolutionary opportunity for thousands of students across the globe. But MIT is also committed to using MITx to transform the nature of education on its own campus. In order to do so, MIT — and all other institutions embracing digital learning — must answer the question of how best to structure their online learning platform. If online resources are to have the effect that advocates promise, it is essential that the online learning platform that is tailored to the needs and learning styles of the student body.
Perfectly capturing the sentiment of so many people, the Boston Athletic Association said in their official statement Monday after the Boston Marathon explosions, “What was intended to be a day of joy and celebration quickly became a day in which running a marathon was of little importance.” My four friends and I were planning on celebrating completing the marathon together after only two weeks of training. Instead, we ended up celebrating our good fortune: no from our group or family was harmed.
As a member of the MIT wrestling team and the greater wrestling community, I was saddened by Boston University’s recent decision to drop its wrestling program. At a time when wrestling is still recovering from the shock of being dropped from the Olympics, this decision came as an added blow. However, I have been inspired by the way the wrestlers across the country have rallied together to try to save the program. While the university’s decision was disappointing, it is also emblematic of a larger problem with the sport.
Online education is growing rapidly. Recently, six new universities have been added to the edX platform. Each new university plans to develop its own set of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Between the big three — edX, Coursera, and Udacity — there are now hundreds of MOOCs from universities all over the world. Advocates are quick to highlight that these MOOCs have already served millions of students, enabling anyone with an Internet connection to receive a world-class education.
One of the most exciting programs offered by MIT is the Undergraduate Association (UA) student faculty dinner program. Taking a professor out to eat, on MIT’s dime, is not only a great way to get to get to know your professors, but it also shows students that our professors are, in fact, real people. Getting to interact in a casual setting helps break the stereotype that our professors’ lives completely revolve around their work.
MIT loves hands-on learning. We see it everywhere, in lab classes, in the UROP programs, even in the motto itself, Mens et Manus. Many of the best classes at the Institute are centered around the union of hands-on learning and lecture-style learning, encouraging students to take the concepts and equations from lectures and apply them to different real world hands-on applications. This model has been tremendously successful and has helped propel MIT and its students to the place it is today.
In recent weeks, there has been much energy and enthusiasm about both MITx and its multi-institutional counter part edX. Listening to the debate over how MITx can be integrated into the residential experience, I am impressed by how much thought all affected parties have invested. We as a community are at a crossroads. We have been presented with an opportunity to substantially change what it means to receive a college education. This possibility excites me, but for others it may seem slightly frightening. Many people are concerned about what we may lose in the process of integrating online education into our current system. While these concerns are certainly valid, I am still optimistic. Rather than focus on how MITx might harm, I focus on how it can transform. What follows is my vision of how this transformation might play out.
Science today has an image problem. Too often it is seen as an esoteric activity of academics, whose results have no influence on the daily lives of the American people. When the news of the neutrinos supposedly going faster of light was reported and the public saw the scientific community scramble to debunk this claim, I cannot help but wonder what an American who does not follow science thought of the coverage.
With the evolution of massive open online course (MOOC) and online learning, in the near future students will no longer need a lecture to learn material. We are already seeing the beginning of this trend; independent learners can teach themselves in an online environment and receive immediate feedback. This represents a major change in model of education. Teachers are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge and students can take charge of their own educations. The democratizing of knowledge will completely reshape the classroom. When students no longer need to come to lecture to learn the material, what role does the classroom have in education? Where is the added value?
In prepared remarks to the MIT community last year, President Reif declared that one of his most cherished values includes “a commitment to meritocracy.” Indeed meritocracy is one of the values which make MIT great. Recognizing, rewarding, and encouraging the talents of its students and general population help MIT attract the brightest people in the world and keep these people happy and productive during their time here.