An Opportunity for Educational Change

Daniel Hastings, Dean for Undergraduate Education

DUE is working with the MIT Council on Educational Technology (MITCET) to explore the idea of modularity applied to teaching and the curriculum. Modularity here means that content would be delivered in small chunks with embedded learning outcomes and analytics (e.g two week segments). Underlying this effort are three key advances that provide the basis for rethinking MIT’s residentially-based science and technology-centered education:

  1. Several years of experiments and data gathering on best practices in engineering and science education have shown substantially improved learning gains associated with rapid, focused feedback (see for example, the Journal of Engineering Education).
  2. Online educational technology tools have been developed that enable fine-grain analysis of learning at the individual student level.
  3. We have gained an increased understanding of the educational value and contribution of co-curricular educational experiences to the residentially-based education at MIT.

With the combination of these ideas...

MITCET is identifying creative opportunities for the use of modularity at MIT that will enable :

  • A shift away from a predominantly inactive lecture-based mode of student-instructor engagement to an active learning mode with a focus on conceptual understanding and problem solving.
  • An increased expectation of student preparation for active learning using a variety of learning resources such as video lectures, lecture notes, sample problems, on-line demos, etc.
  • An expansion of active learning engagement to facilitate students that are not present in the classroom.
  • A modularization of the course syllabus and content materials with a self-paced, independent-study option where students' progression in the course is assessed module-by-module and adapted to their individual pace.
  • Majors would be able to complete portions of the course over IAP or while away from campus during internships, study abroad, or the extended research collaborations that have arisen as part of MIT's efforts to build relationships internationally.
  • Modular offerings would allow for more precise prerequisites for down-stream courses and provide students with a focused review of concepts and skills if it becomes apparent that a refresher is required.

These developments, enabled by modern educational technology, may lead to an exciting new educational future for MIT. MIT is positioning itself to respond to the online revolution beyond the leadership role it plays with OCW.