Highlights from the 2014 DUE Visiting Committee Report

By Dennis Freeman, Dean for Undergraduate Education

In May, we hosted the biennial visit of the DUE Visiting Committee (VC). The purpose of this external committee is to provide insight and guidance to the DUE leadership and the senior leadership at MIT.   In July, I shared a summary of the visit, which was focused on three key topics:

  • Enhancing students’ educational experiences in the freshman year
  • Admissions: a view into the selection process
  • DUE opportunities vis a vis recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of MIT Education

Beyond the feedback the Committee shared during the visit, I received a report summarizing their observations and recommendations.  I wanted to share their key findings with you, which are as follows:

Enhancing the freshman year:

  • Enabling freshmen to take charge of their learning experience
    DUE discussed the idea of continuing key conversations, initiated during Orientation, throughout the first year.  The VC liked the idea of reinforcing certain discussions that involve complex and behavior-change issues, such as sexual assault and the skills necessary to succeed on campus, during IAP.
     
  • Providing more hands-on experiences learning in the first-year curriculum
    DUE presented several ideas for more hands-on, including a new freshman learning community with a “maker theme.” The VC liked the idea of credit for hands-on experiences or obtaining a “Maker’s License” as a result of learning certain fundamental production skills.
     
  • Expanding and strengthening peer teaching and learning
    Central to this discussion was the idea of an Undergraduate Teaching Opportunities Program (UTOP), which would be modeled on UROP. Individual faculty members and undergraduates would work together as partners on education. The VC was very supportive of this idea.

The VC applauded the many interesting and creative ideas being developed in DUE to enhance the experience of first-year students. At the same time, they acknowledged the challenge for DUE is to prioritize these ideas and determine which ones to move forward and how to do so recognizing additional resources might be required.

View into the Admissions Selection Process:

The VC received what they described as a detailed, insightful view into MIT’s undergraduate selection process and commended the Admissions Office for the constant evolution, success, and transparency of the admissions process.  They felt there was not enough time for the Committee to fully appreciate the full context of the process and they look forward to continued engagement on this subject in the future.

Future of Education:

In talking about the future of education, we highlighted areas of opportunity for DUE within the larger framework of the Task Force on the Future of MIT Education.  These opportunities include:

  • introducing greater modularity in the undergraduate curriculum.
  • enhancing the ethical and contextual dimensions of undergraduate education.
  • facilitate better communication skills.
  • evolving learning spaces to support future directions in residential education.

The VC acknowledged the fact that DUE can bring important resources and practices to the development of online learning, such as funding of educational innovation, course assessment, and “best practices” for online courses for residential education.  They were interested in understanding how DUE and the Office of Digital Learning (ODL) can collaborate more closely to advance online learning.

Conclusion

In summarizing the two-day meeting, the VC noted they were captivated by the quality of DUE’s ideas and appreciated the focus on the big picture of enhancing student education and removing barriers to ensure greater success.  They felt the discussions were very frank, open and informative.

DUE will develop an interim report in 2015 to update the VC on our plans and progress.  The next meeting will take place in 2016.