Harvard/MIT summit on online learning & the future of residential education

Source: Harvard.edu reading, Mar 2013

Anant Agarwal, president of edX and a faculty member at MIT, relayed two admissions success stories that began with clicks made halfway around the world.

A student from Mongolia (who had to travel a great distance to find the nearest, lone Internet access point) and another in China who were taking Argawal’s edX course, MITx 6.002x, “Circuits and Electronics,” were so exceptional — performing at near-genius levels — that Agarwal made it his mission to help bring them to the attention of his own school’s admissions office. They both got into MIT.

On the Harvard campus, the arrival of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other digital dissemination platforms for teaching and learning have provided many faculty members with their first Hollywood closeups.

“By putting their work out there for all to see, they can compare what they are doing with one another,” said Harvard Provost Alan Garber.

Reflecting on the early lessons learned, Reif had a sense of measured optimism about the future of residential learning. What he called a “movement” was one that was happening from the bottom up.

… university leaders like himself may eventually act more like coaches and Sherpas than top-down directors.

Agarwal went one step further. edX, he said, was formed by Harvard and MIT to  enable innovation and provide a sandbox for dozens of higher education institutions to experiment collectively with teaching, learning, and revenue models.

While enterprises like edX were “businesses that needed to be self-sustaining” the parallel aim, he added, was to “rise all boats.”

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