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Issue Date: March 2012, Posted On: 3/22/2012


Agarwal named head of MIT’s new online learning initiative
Photo by M Scott Brauer
 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Anant Agarwal has been named director of a new unit of MIT created to advance the school’s online-learning initiative. Agarwal will soon step down as director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to devote himself more fully to the online learning unit with the working title Open Learning Enterprise. He will continue to lead CSAIL until a successor is identified by Ian Waitz, dean of the school of engineering.

"The development of the capabilities needed to make MITx a reality will require substantial ongoing effort," MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif said. "Professor Agarwal's initial goals are the rapid organization of the enterprise, the rapid development of a technology platform for online courses and the development of high-quality MITx subjects."

The launch of the MITx initiative was announced on Dec. 19. The initiative's prototype course — “6.002x: Circuits and Electronics,” modeled after an introductory undergraduate course offered by MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science — began on March 5 and will run through June 8. The MITx course, which has enrolled more than 100,000 students, is co-taught by Agarwal.

"I am excited by the challenge of developing a new model of online learning that will enrich the education of students here on campus while making MIT accessible to millions of students around the world," said Agarwal, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. "I look forward to creating a robust, open-source technology platform to support this endeavor, and am eager to work with my colleagues on the MIT faculty to create content to be hosted on this platform."

MIT will make the open-learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or educational institutions such as K-12 school systems — can use the same software for their online education offerings. MIT expects that this learning platform will enhance the experience of its on-campus students, offering online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

MIT also expects that MITx will eventually enable a virtual community of millions of learners around the world. MITx will be coupled with an school-wide research initiative into online learning that will study how students, whether on campus or part of a virtual community, learn most effectively, MIT said.
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