“Higher education is at an inflection point.”

This morning I read MIT’s final report on the Future of MIT Education (livetweeting as I read).  I was impressed by the quality of the report and its level of specificity (I’m somewhat cynical about reports produced by task forces and committees). The report was published last week and has not attracted much attention, but I decided to geek out and read the whole thing.

As a recent MIT alum, and somitxgendermeone who admires MIT’s cutting edge work in ed tech, MOOCs, and open courseware, I was curious how bold the report would be in setting goals for the campus. The 16 recommendations set forth in the report reflect a tension felt by the task force- “a tension between a desire to preserve the qualities that define an MIT education and a push to make grand, sweeping changes to its very core.” This was illustrated in the nature of the recommendations, some of which were concrete and attainable, while others seemed more vague and generic.

Of the 16 recommendations, I was most fascinated with numbers eight through eleven. These 4 recommendations focused on taking online education to the next level. The first three of these were all about engagement- engaging online learners to address global challenges, engaging the K-12 community, and engaging the 1000 local edX communities with MIT. I believe that technology works best when innovators embed outreach and community building efforts into their core strategy. These three goals set MIT onto that path.

The fourth recommendation is not about outreach but I find it intellectually interesting- the task force challenges the institute to consider certifications through MITx and edX, and to develop pricing methodologies and revenue-sharing arrangements through the certifications. Maybe it’s the nerdy side of my post-MBA life, but this made me think back to my Pricing class at Sloan, and what pricing model might best capture the value of online certifications. This kind of thinking and analysis is really at the cutting edge for MOOCs, and I’m eager to see what direction MIT goes with this charge.

I’m glad I read the report, and I hope current MIT students will read it and engage with the task force. There is a lot of work to be done, and I always think students have a role to play in keeping the institution accountable. Finally, I couldn’t end my analysis without trying to categorize where an institute task force might fit into an ed tech market map, as I “think out loud” over here. For now I have added it as a subsection of MOOCs, and also under a new category I created for University Initiatives. Let me know what you think!

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