MIT Report on the Future of Education

MIT has finally released its report on the future of education at MIT. You can find it here.

The main part of the report is about 30 pages and includes various recommendations, mostly to do more investigating into various possibilities.

MITx/edX takes a prominent place in many of the recommendations. The report suggests that the Institute investigate incorporating MITx material into actual classes. It also discusses ways to expand the reach of MITx/edX outside MIT and suggests various ways to do this and to increase revenue from these programs.

One interesting thing that I hadn’t known is that the MIT faculty has not grown much in the past 30 years, while the number of graduate students and postdocs has increased significantly due to increased research funding. Unusually for similar schools, the undergraduate population has actually decreased, likely due to increasing restrictions on undergrads living off campus (mostly due to various scandals at frats and independent living groups).

Overall, the report recommends doing much of this to strengthen the traditional residential programs at MIT. Something like MITx could be very useful as a teaching tool, both inside and outside MIT, but we should remain skeptical to be sure that the development of nontraditional pedagogical methods does not threaten the quality of the education students get on campus. Some things that have already been tried, such as the TEAL program adding computer-based work and clicker questions in the classroom in introductory physics courses have been found to increase test scores, although they are widely disliked by a large fraction of the undergraduate student body.