By Nick Anderson
One way to find the future of higher education is to track the brainstormers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who often seem to be a step ahead of the pack. So it matters when L. Rafael Reif, the MIT president, says that an idea for digital innovation is “on the table.”
Reif, in a recent visit with The Washington Post, said the institute is pondering whether to launch new online education programs that would generate revenue. “All this is on the table,” he said, “and we’re exploring it.”
Such programs, Reif said, could help subsidize the operation of the campus in Cambridge. “Yes, of course,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.” Reif, a fervent believer in residential education as well as online innovation, said he is continually looking to generate revenue that can “support the mother ship.”
Exactly what form these online programs would take remains to be seen. In the summer of 2014, an MIT task force recommended expansion of professional and executive education, as well as other online courses that offer certificates for a fee. Currently, there are certificates available for those who complete sequences of MIT courses online in subjects such as aerodynamics, computer science and supply chain management.
MIT has long been at the forefront of digital innovation. In 2001, the institute announced that it would begin publishing its teaching materials online for anyone to access for free. It was a ground-breaking move — giving away to the world a trove of huge intellectual and pedagogic value.
In the years since, MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative has published syllabi, lecture notes, problem sets, videos and other curriculum materials from 2,260 courses; it has drawn 175 million visitors from around the world. These visitors include teachers, students and many others interested in self-improvement.
MIT has become a leader in propelling massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which provide unprecedented access to elite higher education. It joined forces with Harvard University to launch the nonprofit Web site called edX in 2012. The site now hosts MOOCs from prominent colleges, universities and other institutions worldwide. Those from MIT are offered under the brand “MITx.”
[ Full article available at The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/07/23/mit-looks-to-stay-in-vanguard-of-digital-education/ ]