The What, Who, and How of DUE: the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT)

By Anna Babbi Klein, Communications Manager, DUE

What is OEIT?


You may believe that the name of the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) gives you a good sense of what the office does: it’s about bringing together technology and educational innovation. But what does this really mean?

At the core, OEIT is focused on improving teaching and learning at MIT. What OEIT does is explore, develop and disseminate innovative uses of technology that enable the faculty to make education more meaningful to the students:

  • Supplementing a biology classroom lecture on genomics with a visualization and analysis tool that enables students to compare different patient tumor samples and identify common characteristics based on global patterns of gene expression.
  • Creating a multi-layered time-line of the year 1917 in Russia to enable students to view and analyze this very complex period from different human perspectives and timeframes and begin to make their own connections and conclusions.
  • Developing interactive Math applets for use in a differential equations class, and as the basis for homework assignments, to help convey how differential equations represent the behavior of real systems.
  • Using voice recognition to make videos, such a classroom lectures, searchable which allows students to supplement their learning by easily finding video content related to a particular topic of interest.


Education as a core focus…Technology as a core competency

OEIT is focused on pedagogy-led rather than technology-led innovation. Unlike academic computing at other universities, OEIT is not IT driven. As Seinor Associate Dean and Director of OEIT Vijay Kumar noted:

“It is important not to start by selecting the technology. We first go to our faculty to understand what they would like to achieve educationally and identify what is getting in the way. Only then do we look at exploring what sort of technology could be brought in to address the issue.”

To address the teaching and learning challenges raised by the faculty, OEIT plays the role of innovation incubator. OEIT works with faculty members to understand their issues and brainstorm ideas. For example, Haynes Miller, a Math professor, was concerned that students were having trouble understanding differential equations because they had lost sight of the fact that Mathematics describes the behavior of real systems. So, the challenge was how to visually show students Math “in action.” Once agreement is reached on an approach, a prototype is developed for the faculty to consider and assess. In some cases, a faculty member or department may have already developed a prototype which OEIT refines and enhances. The key is collaboration with faculty as domain experts and innovators.

As prototypes evolve into tools and applications, a key role of OEIT is to communicate the availability and adaptability of such innovations to faculty and departments across the Institute. Through its outreach efforts, OEIT fosters connections among the faculty around pedagogical challenges and the approaches that have benefited their students. Math “in action” became a suite of Java applets called Mathlets that shows the connection between an equation and a physical system. OEIT has worked to connect Haynes Miller to faculty in Aero/Astro and Physics who have similar challenges and are considering how to take advantage of the work done in the Math Department. It is not necessarily about the technical solution itself, but how the approach can be shared and applied in similar contexts.

OEIT is also very involved in the conversation around educational technology among universities and technology providers through the world. They share best practices as well as identify opportunities for innovative practices that are applicable to MIT. OEIT uses this knowledge to shape their conversation with faculty and inform the development of educational infrastructure and services such as Tablet PC’s for collaborative learning, GIS Tools for spatial data analysis, and high-performance computing for science and engineering.

OEIT Solutions

During the past three years, OEIT has developed solutions and created flexible learning spaces that have involved over 120 faculty and impacted 110 courses. The success and broad impact of OEIT’s endeavors relies on some key underlying tenants:

  • Collaborate with faculty to address the problems they deem as critical for improving student learning.
  • Enable innovative practices in teaching and learning
  • Develop platform based solutions that can be repurposed or adapted instead of one-off solutions
  • Collaborate with the Teaching and Learning Laboratory on the applicability of pedagogical advances as well as assessment of solutions.
  • Collaborate with the Office of Faculty Support to support courses that advance the recommendations of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons.
  • Move solution support to a sustainably partners, such as MIT IS&T or the MIT libraries.


OEIT Solutions

The OEIT Gallery of Educational Innovation will give you a great overview of the variety of educational technology OEIT has developed. This broad range of solutions uses many approaches to address the needs of faculty in diverse departments.

Spoken Media

Spoekn Media Screen ShotThe Transmedia Systems and Applications (TSA) team in OEIT focuses on helping faculty integrate digital content more deeply and effectively into the curriculum. A key aspect of this is looking at what can be done to increase and enhance the use of open content within MIT, such as OCW content.

TSA’s Spoken Media uses voice recognition to make videos searchable. Instead of watching an entire video to see a small portion related to a particular topic of interest, the Spoken Media search results highlight where in a video the content exists and allows the viewer to go to that particular section. TSA has been collaborating with faculty in CSAIL who developed the voice recognition software.

TSA’s goal is to provide a service in which a video can be submitted and, within a day or two, a searchable video is returned. The Physics faculty is interested in taking advantage of existing videos, such as the Lewin lectures, as a resource to students who could use sections of the videos to get more detail on topics covered in class.

Math CI LogoMath CI Space

The Math Department offers twelve communication-intensive courses, many of which are offered by a different instructor each semester. To engage and support this community of instructors and to facilitate the archiving of course materials and the gleaning of "good practices" for these courses, they worked with OEIT to design an online community where instructors can share materials and actively discuss teaching ideas called the MIT Math CI Space.

Software Tools for Academics and Researchers (STAR)

STARHydro Screen ShotMIT faculty across the Institute is interested in incorporating research methods into classroom learning. However, limited time and the need for advanced equipment and facilities make this challenging. The goal of Software Tools for Academics and Researchers (STAR) is to bridge research and classroom learning by developing innovative and intuitive teaching tools that enable students to explore core scientific research concepts.

STAR has evolved into seven instantiations that each came out of a faculty member who was looking for a different way to get across concepts in the classroom. The software is open to anyone on the web and had over 10,000 users over a one year period. Most users are regional to New England, but there have been users from across the world. The interface on the STAR tools has been created to support a productive learning experience for a range of users, from middle schools students to graduate students and researchers.

  • STARBiochem Screen ShotStarBiochem is a 3D protein viewer that allows students to learn key concepts in structural biology in an interactive manner.
  • StarGenetics provides a set of tools for analyzing genetic traits.
  • StarHydro is an application for distributed hydrological analysis.
  • StarORF facilitates the identification of the protein(s) encoded within a DNA sequence.
  • StarBiogene is a set of visual and analytic software tools for the analysis of genomic gene expression data.
  • StarMolSim is a collection of molecular dynamics and atomistic materials modeling research software.
  • StarHPC provides an on-demand computing cluster configured for parallel programming using Amazon's EC2 web service to completely virtualize the entire parallel programming experience.


Who works in OEIT?

OEIT Staff

<view the OEIT staff listing>

Vijay Kumar, Senior Associate Dean and Director
Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra, Associate Director
Toru Iiyoshi, Senior Strategist
Jim Cain, Faculty Liaison, Manager of Experimental Learning Environments
Daniel Sheehan, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Specialist

Mary Curtin, Senior Administrative Assistant
Judi Leonard, Communications and Events

Software Tools for Academics and Researchers (STAR) Team
Lourdes Aleman, Postdoctoral Associate in Curriculum Development and Teaching
Sara Bonner, Programmer Analyst II
Ivica Ceraj, Programmer Analyst III
Rocklyn Clarke Sr., Discovery and Outreach Developer
Justin Riley, Programmer Analyst III
Chuck Shubert, Senior Strategist & Architect

Trarsmedia Systems and Applications (TSA) Team
Andrew McKinney, Senior Software Architect
Jeff Merriman, Associate Director, Software Strategy and Development
Molly Ruggles, Educational Technology Consultant
Violeta Ivanova – Instructor and Educational Innovation Leader
Brandon Muramatsu, Senior IT Consultant
Peter Wilkins, Senior Programmer/Analyst

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