MIT may very well be the most influential and important university on the planet right now. That’s according to Boston Magazine and shouldn’t surprise many. The school relentlessly pursues big dreams, important breakthroughs, and innovative solutions to problems. It’s exactly what a school should be. So how does MIT approach innovation in education technology? Thanks to Tom Daccord at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, I heard about MIT Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL). It’s just a spoke in a wheel of innovation at MIT and I figured the rest of Edudemic readers would stand to benefit from learning about it and the other things MIT is working on.
Below is MIT’s description of some of the key projects and groups that have been formed in order to address the needs of education technology. Look for all the big ideas from MIT to stem from these organizations and future ones that are yet to be formed. Each offers MIT’s own take on a solution to a major problem. From OpenCourseWare to the MIT-Singapore Alliance, there’s a lot to know about.
MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is delivering on MIT’s promise to share knowledge openly: through it all MIT course materials will be accessible on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. Millions of educators, students and self-learners around the globe are avidly using the 1250 courses now available (the initiative will include materials from approximately 1,800 courses by the year 2007). Importantly, more than 60 other institutions around the world have adopted the “opencourseware” concept, and are now freely disseminating their knowledge and materials as part of the burgeoning OpenCourseWare Movement.
Durable Digital Archives
DSpace™ is a free, open source software platform that allows research organizations to offer faculty and researchers a professionally managed searchable archive for their digital assets. DSpace focuses on simple access to these assets, as well as their long-term preservation.
iLabs enriches science and engineering education by vastly increasing the scope of experiments that students have access to in the course of their academic careers. Harnessing the Internet, it enables students to use real instruments via remote online laboratories. Unlike conventional laboratories, iLabs can be shared across a university or across the world—and today, they are.
The MIT Online Assessment Tool
The basic format and venue of the college writing placement test has remained remarkably the same for over one hundred years: Matriculating freshmen are herded into lecture halls and asked to handwrite one or two timed-impromptu essays. Now a national online essay evaluation service, the iCampus/MIT Online Assessment Tool (iMOAT) has changed that experience. iMOAT allows students to write essays at home on a computer, to base their writing on the critical reading of substantial essays, and to engage in all stages of the writing process: invention, drafting, revision, and editing. Moreover, iMOAT allows universities to automate many of the best practices of holistic writing assessment, while maintaining complete autonomy over their own evaluations.
In the years following World War II, engineering education and real-world demands on engineers drifted apart. To close the widening gap, MIT pioneered a new model of engineering education, stressing engineering fundamentals within the context of the actual process engineers use: conceiving, designing, implementing and operating. Today, MIT and other leading American, European, Canadian, British, African, Asian, and New Zealand schools have formed a collaborative, the CDIO Initiative, to develop and implement this model worldwide.
Technology-Enhanced Active Learning
In the late 1990s, educational innovations in teaching freshman physics, specifically a method called interactive engagement, were delivering greater learning gains than the traditional lecture format. These innovations were not lost on Professor John Belcher, teacher of first-year physics at MIT and one of the three principal investigators on the Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) project. Belcher was grappling with the mismatch between traditional teaching methods and how students actually learn. Despite great lecturers, attendance at MIT’s freshman physics course dropped to 40% by the end of the term, with a 10% failure rate. Even though MIT freshmen had good math skills, they often had a tough time grasping the concepts of first-year physics. Traditional lectures, although excellent for many purposes, do not convey concepts well because of their passive nature.
The Singapore-MIT Alliance
MIT has long sought to establish programs that expand its research and educational reach while maintaining its focus as a residential research university. To strengthen its reach as well as the global outlook of faculty and students, MIT launched the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) in 1998 with the goal of setting a new standard of international collaboration in graduate science and engineering education and research.
Learning Management Systems
Faculty require tremendous functionality, flexibility, and customization in a learning management system—coupled with ease of use. Three MIT initiatives provide this to Institute faculty and students, and beyond.
.LRN (“dot learn”) is a worldwide enterprise-class open-source software for supporting learning and research. Its flexible architecture takes advantage of modularized educational computing applications and reusable components, allowing software to be shared within the university and across institutions. Originally developed at MIT, .LRN is used by nearly half a million people in more than 18 countries at educational institutions and non-profit organizations and in government and business.