Saturday, May 26, 2012

disruptive innovation in education?

MIT | It’s midnight, and Anant Agarwal is still at his computer.

He’s not, however, tying up administrative loose ends before stepping down as director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Neither is he exchanging ideas with his collaborators on the major microchip-design project he’s leading, nor debating strategy with any of the other board members at Tilera, the chip company he founded in 2004.

Instead, he’s in an online discussion forum, talking about basic circuit design with students around the world — a group that includes high schoolers, undergraduates, mid-career professionals and at least one octogenarian retiree.

A decade ago, MIT broke ground with its OpenCourseWare initiative, which made MIT course materials, such as syllabi and lecture notes, publicly accessible. But over the last five years, MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif has led an effort to move the complete MIT classroom experience online, with video lectures, homework assignments, lab work — and a grade at the end.

That project, called MITx, launched late last year. On March 16, Reif announced that Agarwal would step down as CSAIL director in order to lead MIT’s Open Learning Enterprise, which will oversee MITx’s development.

MITx is born

“I’ve done a few startups, and even as a professor, you want to eat your own dog food,” Agarwal says. Hence his late-evening sessions on the bulletin board for MITx’s prototype course, “Circuits and Electronics.”

Co-taught by Agarwal, Panasonic Professor of Electrical Engineering Gerald Sussman, CSAIL co-director and Senior Lecturer Christopher Terman and CSAIL research scientist Piotr Mitros, the course — 6.002 in MIT’s course-numbering system, 6.002x in its MITx iteration — has more than 120,000 enrollees. Logged into the discussion forum as “aa,” Agarwal tests the MITx interface, gauges students’ reaction to online tools and sometimes answers their questions. Fist tap Dale.


Ed Dunn said...

Wanna bet the majority of STEM students are non-American? The major problem is how we have students from emerging countries learning collaboratively from open source initiatives while here in the USA, our kids have to fill a bubble...