MIT Report Calls for Integration of Online Learning Research, Support...

Higher Education

MIT Report Calls for Integration of Online Learning Research, Support for ‘Learning Engineers’

Apr 1, 2016

A CALL TO ‘BLEND’ LEARNING RESEARCH: How will advances in learning science and education technology impact online learning? This question and more are the subject of “Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reform,” a report released by the MIT Online Education Policy Initiative that follows the university’s 2014 report on the Future of Education at MIT. The new report, which targets institutional leaders, policy officials, education researchers, companies and foundations, is the result of discussion by members of the Initiative and an advisory group. Final recommendations include:

  • Facilitate deeper integration of research across fields that impact learning. Research advances within educational fields are clearly important, the report notes, “but the transformative improvements necessary to meet the nation’s pressing educational needs demand greater integration across fields.”
  • Digital technologies should be promoted as education enablers that support teachers through “digital scaffolding,” an approach most aligned with blended learning. Examples of digital scaffolding include interweaving short videos with testing and using game-based learning to contextualize problems.
  • Grow the profession of learning engineers, who draw on a combination of expertise across fields of education and on skills to “develop infrastructure,” including educational technologies, to support teaching and learning.
  • Establish “thinking communities” to evaluate proposed reforms and ensure implementation. The report calls for broadly-defined groups of decision-makers to identify teams of change agents, rather than individual visionaries, in addition to “role models”—successful groups and institutions willing to pilot new approaches.

Professor Sanjay Sarma, a co-author, shared his vision with MIT News: “We hope that this work will help to give our point of view on how university professors, policy makers, and government officials can think about technology and online education in the context of education at large.”

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