MIT Online Education Policy Initiative

This month the Online Education Policy Initiative at MIT released a study done on how to further education in all aspects, with a focus on online education. The study has four focus zones: interdisciplinary collaboration, online educational technologies, learning engineers, and institutional/organizational change. The overarching message of the study is that while all fields are making good progress forward, education must begin making progress across the different fields of study through collaboration and cooperation between fields.

One of the biggest needs that the OPEI highlighted was the need for “deeper integration of research across the fields that impact learning”. One of the ways in which some schools have achieved this is converging perspective approaches. Simply put, one team looks at the problem from the outside-in while the other looks from the inside-out. As the two discuss the problem at length and the two perspectives converge, both parties gain a deeper understanding of the solution than if they had been working alone. Another strong point for collaboration would be the Government Agencies presiding over education providing a collaborative research schedule. This is already happening within fields, but MIT is advocating bringing the leaders in each field together to begin collaborating across all education research, leading to versatile interdisciplinary leaders.

Another focus of the study was the need to utilize online education in tandem with traditional learning due to several unique advantages it offers over the latter. Online learning’s creates the ability for instructors to stay in touch with student’s strengths and weaknesses, offer customized curriculums, and give continuous assessments. It can also be utilized to improve information retention through automatic spacing of refresher courses. Note that they advocate online learning, but not with a removal of instructors, but instead collaboration between the instructor and the system. By utilizing online platforms as method for content delivery and instructors as tools for personal interactions for the students, universities can provide guidance and promote in depth discussions within their classrooms.

This leads to the next key point which is the need to expand the utilization of the emerging Learning Engineer. A Learning Engineer falls somewhere in between the professor and the students, and is focused on building the connection between these two parties and easing the ways in which they interact and perform their duties of teaching and learning respectively. This position requires a specific knowledge within the discipline that is being taught, as well as a broader understanding of education and effective teaching and learning.

The final item of this report is how schools must look at making institutional and organizational changes to implement these transformations. The OPEI recommends adding thinking communities to act as a continually adjusting and evaluating force for these reforms. These changes will not happen overnight, but an infrastructure can be put in place to keep educations moving forward while improving teaching and learning with new technology and development.

It is our goal as ProctorFree to be a service for these educators looking to advance technology in the classroom, and to assist students get the quality education that they deserve. We look forward to seeing more reports similar to these emerge as new technology and research enters the academic scene, as this study was incredibly insightful for the future of education as a whole.

There is much more to the study than the overview provides, and you can find the full report here.