A Fine Inauguration

I attended the inauguration of President Reif. There was lots of pomp and circumstance and parading around in gowns. I saw many colleagues from other universities there to celebrate his inauguration and welcome him to the ranks of academic leaders. He gave a very good address that laid out his priorities for his tenure as President. Of course, all Presidents have their plans and then there is "stuff that happens". His plans are exciting for MIT and he starts with much goodwill.

A New Start

This time of the year in mid August is when the summer is winding down and the excitement of the new term is starting to build. I recall distinctly coming to MIT in August 1976 as a brand new graduate student in Aero/Astro. My first view of MIT was of what was then Ashdown House and is now Masseh Hall. It was a time to begin again after finishing my undergraduate degree in another country.

So it is for all those who come here for the first time this August and early September. A new start!
 

A Gala Event for Susan Hockfied

Two nights ago, I attended a big gala event for Susan Hockfield. It was black tie and fine gowns. In addition to the members of the MIT Corporation and senior leadership of MIT, who I expected to be there, there were members of the IT staff and kitchen staff seated at the tables. I found out that President Hockfield had invited all of these people personally. These are the people she has worked with over her years at MIT as President. This spoke very movingly to her caring for people and her humanity in performing the job.

Much excitement about edX

A week or so ago, edX was announced. This is a joint venture between MIT and Harvard to offer courses online, with assessment, free to the world (with a small cost for a certificate for MITx courses). This builds on the previous announcement about MITx. This announcement has generated a large amount of press interest since two of the best universities in the world are saying that the world of higher education is changing and we want to be at the forefront of it. So now there are two clear approaches to massive online education. One is the for profit model with Stanford, Princeton and Penn.

A Visit from Our Peers

We recently had a visiting committee review of our programs in the Dean for Undergraduate Education office. At MIT this is called a visiting committee. The Visiting Committee is composed of members of the MIT corporation, alumni and deans/vice provosts from our peers (Caltech, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, Harvey Mudd). The discussions were intense. We have many similar problems and MIT is behind in some areas and ahead in others.

MITx - what is it?

Last month, I blogged on the Stanford experiments in large scale online education. Well now, MIT has announced it's own effort which has the working name "MITx". Through MITx, the Institute will make available some of its curricular materials with embedded assessment and with a worldwide interactive community of learners. This is different from OCW which has no assessment and where the learners do not interact with each ether. If a learner wants certification of what they have learned at MIT, then for a modest fee they can get a credential from MITx.

Experiments in Online Education

Stanford has announced that they will put an additional set of courses online and free for learners. This is a bold experiment which has the potential to change the state of elite higher education. I have the sense that higher education is at an inflection point with respect to the use of online technologies. This means that we must sharpen the value we offer in a residentially-based education.

Recent Tragedies at MIT

We have had two suicides among undergraduates at MIT. Each is a tragedy. Each is a life lost in despair. We talk about the "MIT community" often but we failed to catch the fact that these two young people were suffering.

I want each of us to draw closer to our neighbors and make sure that we ask how they are doing. We have so many resources in place but they need to be activated by someone. A roommate, a classmate, a professor. Lets all reach out and do that.

 

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