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Office of Digital Learning announces MITx Grant Program recipients

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Following a call announced in April, the Office of Digital Learning (ODL) has announced the recipients of its first MITx Grant Program.

The program was designed to fund innovative online modules and tools that leverage the edX platform for both global and residential audiences in support of the digital learning strategies of MIT departments and schools. Twenty-five proposals were submitted, from 14 different departments and units, and covering a variety of subjects from quantum physics to Shakespeare to global studies. Based on recommendations from MITx’s Faculty Advisory Committee, eight projects were selected for funding.

“I am excited by the response to this call,” says Sanjay Sarma, MIT's Dean of Digital Learning. “The MITx Grant Program creates a space where faculty can experiment and reinvent their classrooms, and then share what they’ve discovered with global learners through edX. I’m glad to see this being leveraged.”

The goal for this grant cycle was to solicit faculty-lead proposals that met key themes from the Institute-Wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education, such as modularity, and innovations in automated student assessments, among other things. 

The Department of Physics will use grant funding to develop online modules for two requirement undergraduate classes, 8.01 (Introduction to Classical Mechanics) and 8.02 (Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism), which are aligned with the technology-enhanced active learning (or TEAL) style that was pioneered at MIT. Karen Willcox, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and Jacob White, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, will use the grant to develop Feedback Control Systems, a project to design modules that cover general concepts in linear feedback systems and controls to be shared across MIT's engineering departments. The modules created from these projects will be offered across the globe via edX.

Special attention was given to projects that incorporate new teaching and learning techniques, and digital innovations. Professor of Literature Diana Henderson’s project, Literature Lab Tools for Global Shakespeare’s Curriculum and Beyond, aims to develop digital annotation tools to enable the analysis and discussion of literature using multiple types of media.

Exploring new assessment strategies was the final category of criteria. Professor of Physics Barton Zwiebach’s project for 8.05 (Mastering Quantum Mechanics) will analyze data on incorrect answers to create appropriate feedback that guides students when they make common mistakes. In 2.05 (Thermodynamics) with Cullen Buie, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, the team will experiment with moving all their problem sets online and with digital recitation management.

The full list of this year's selected projects:

2.05 (Thermodynamics), submitted by Professor Cullen Buie (mechanical engineering): A concise, introductory module on engineering thermodynamics.

8.01 (Introduction to Classical Mechanics), submitted by Professor Deepto Chakrabarty (physics), and 8.02 (Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism), submitted by Professor Robert Redwine (physics): Two sets of sequenced modules based on the semester-long, TEAL-based residential courses, introduction to classical mechanics and introduction to electricity and magnetism.

8.05 (Mastering Quantum Mechanics), submitted by Professor Barton Zwiebach (physics): A series of 3 4-week modules breaking down the existing 8.05x course into smaller, easier to manage modules.

15.053 (Optimization Methods), submitted by Professor James Orlin (management): A module that introduces optimization methods with a focus on modeling, solution techniques, and analysis for the management sciences.

Feedback Control Systems, submitted by Professor Karen Willcox (aeronautics and astronautics), and Professor Jacob White (electrical engineering and computer science): A series of modules in the general areas of linear feedback systems and controls, developed and offered jointly across multiple engineering departments.

Literature Lab Tools for Global Shakespeares Curriculum and Beyond, submitted by Professor Diana Henderson (literature): Development of digital tools for the edX platform to enable the analysis and discussion of literature using multiple types of media.

Engineering Communications, submitted by Senior Lecturer Suzanne Lane (comparative media studies and writing): A sequence of modules focusing on communicating engineering research in various contexts.

The projects will begin development this fall. ODL expects to announce a call for proposals two times a year, with the next call occurring in late 2015. In the meantime, ODL welcomes enquiries from any MIT faculty member about how they can incorporate digital learning into their current teaching or explore a new project. 

The ODL is also supporting a number of other courses and projects across campus and on edX. To learn more, please visit the ODL website.

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