MIT is developing an online educational platform that will be open-source, largely free, and let users outside of MIT earn certificates for completing Institute-caliber courses online. MIT hopes the initiative, internally dubbed “MITx,” will change the way students learn on-campus — by incorporating elements of MITx into existing curricula — and push MIT’s educational reach beyond campus borders in a way the current OpenCourseWare (OCW) cannot.

According to MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, who has been leading the project, “It’s safe to say that MIT faculty want to offer students the best residential education. Nowadays, it looks like more and more, that’s going to mean integrating online technologies into the campus experience.”

By doing “knowledge transfer” online through MITx, says Reif, “students come to a classroom or lab to do more of the enriching experiences they come to a campus for.” With MITx as the basis for teaching on campus, he says, MIT anticipates other types of learning that cannot be done online will increase, like laboratories and UROP, among other faculty-student “face-to-face” interactions 

Users will have the option of getting an MITx “certificate” by successfully completing a course online, though it will cost a “modest” fee, says Reif. Otherwise, they may use the service free-of-charge.

“If you’re taking a course, if you’re just exploring, you want to learn by yourself, and you don’t really care that [you] can show a piece of paper that says you learned, that’s free,” says Reif …

The relationship between teaching and research goes to the heart of the meaning and purpose of higher education. The fundamentalist view of the university is that teaching which is not based on research carried out by academics and students is not higher education. The first modern European university, established by Wilhelm von Humboldt in Berlin in 1810, was designed with research and teaching closely aligned. Students and teachers worked together. This model was developed to facilitate the production of new knowledge, against the dogmatic scholasticism of the medieval university, and to establish the “idea of the university” as the highest level of what a society knows about itself as a progressive political project.

The idea of the university as a progressive political project was further radicalised by the students and their teachers in 1968. In Paris and around the world the elitist exclusion of students was challenged by undergraduates who claimed that research is “something that anyone can do”, a claim they supported by publishing work that revealed not just the crisis in higher education but the crisis of society in general. The ongoing student protests in the UK and around the world are at their most compelling when they provide a critical response not simply to cuts in funding but to the debate about the future of higher education. This means discussing the idea of the university as part of a wider debate relating to issues of who has the resources to produce new knowledge, who owns that knowledge and what it is used for beyond the confines of campus life.

The slogan “Student as producer” is derived from an article written by the Marxist intellectual Walter Benjamin in Germany in the 1930s. In it he made a series of suggestions as to how radical intellectuals should act in a time of social crisis. This included finding ways to enable students, readers, and audiences to become teachers, writers and actors – as producers of their own cultural and intellectual products. The wider political point was for passive consumers of culture and knowledge to transform themselves into the subjects rather than simply the objects of history and to recognise themselves in a social world of their own design.

In a moment when higher education is in crisis, and in a context where the crisis of institutions is part of a much wider crisis at the level of global society, a critical engagement with the notion of student as producer, based on Benjamin’s progressive programme for action, seems like the right place from which to be reinventing the undergraduate curriculum.

The way to improve the student learning experience is not to treat students as consumers nor to claim, as the white paper on higher education does, that students lie at the “heart of the system”. It is rather by recognising that universities are about the expansive production of knowledge and meaning and that this can best be achieved by students and academics working collaboratively on research projects inside and outside the curriculum.

Examples of undergraduate research:

The British Conference for Undergraduate Research

Reinvention: A Journal of Undergraduate Research

Student as Producer: reinventing the undergraduate curriculum

Higher Education Academy : Developing Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (pdf)

Undergraduate Research in Australia

Launching the Innovation Renaissance (Amzn link, B&N for Nook, also iTunes) my new e-book from TED books is now available!  How can we increase innovation? I look at patents, prizes, education, immigration, regulation, trade and other levers of innovation policy. Here’s a brief description:

Unemployment, fear, and fitful growth tell us that the economy is stagnating. The recession, however, is just the tip of iceberg. We have deeper problems. Most importantly, the rate of innovation is down. Patents, which were designed to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, have instead become weapons in a war for competitive advantage with innovation as collateral damage. College, once a foundation for innovation, has been oversold. We have more students in college than ever before, for example, but fewer science majors. Regulations, passed with the best of intentions, have spread like kudzu and now impede progress to everyone’s detriment. Launching the Innovation Renaissance isa fast-paced look at the levers of innovation policy that explains why innovation has slowed and how we can accelerate innovation and build a 21st century economy.

«En este país, al contrario que en el resto de la OCDE, saber más no se paga mejor: ¿para qué estudiar?». La denuncia es de Luis Garicano, catedrático de Estrategia y Economía de la London School of Economics. En una entrevista publicada esta semana, Garicano pidió al futuro Gobierno, junto a otras medidas de choque contra la crisis económica, que conceda «prioridad absoluta» a la reforma de la Educación. A ese asunto se ha referido también, aunque desde una perspectiva opuesta, el catedrático emérito Jordi Llovet, autor del ensayo ‘Adios a la universidad. El eclipse de las Humanidades’. Ese docente acusa a los impulsores del plan Bolonia de haber introducido “la mano neoliberal” en la enseñanza superior. Y se lamenta de que la universidad se esté convirtiendo en «una empresa», cuando su función es formar «ciudadanos civilizados»…

Emerging Practice in a Digital Age explores how colleges and universities are embracing innovation and using emerging technologies to enhance learning in a climate of economic pressure, changing social circumstances and rapid technological change. 

Aimed at those in further and higher education who design and support learning, the guide draws on recent JISC reports and case studies to investigate how the emergence of new and more powerful technologies together with an increase in personal ownership of these technologies are changing the way we connect, communicate and collaborate, and how these changes can benefit learning. The focus of this guide is on emerging practice rather than emerging technology.

The case studies describe a series of exploratory journeys through the themes of:

  • Working in partnership with students 
  • Developing students’ employability potential
  • Preparing for the future

Emerging Practice in a Digital Age is a companion guide to Effective Practice in a Digital Age (JISC 2009) and Innovative Practice with e-Learning (JISC 2005).

Available in PDF y text-only Word format  


Working in partnership with students
1) Supporting student transition through reflective video sharing. University of Ulster
2) Engaging students as agents of change. University of Exeter
3) Students as partners in blending learning. University of Wolverhampton

Developing students’ employability potential
1) Developing professional practice using simulations. Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth
2) Moving into virtual worlds. University of Derby and Aston University
3) Springboard TV: enhancing employability. College of West Anglia
4) Assessment and Learning in Practice Settings (ALPS). Universities of Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield and Leeds Metropolitan and York St John Universities

Preparing for the future
1) Linking learning to location. University Campus Suffolk
2) Mobile Oxford: opening access to information. University of Oxford
3) Creating the culture: a holistic approach to technology-enhanced learning. Gloucestershire College

The Project On Student Debt estimates that the average college senior in 2009 graduated with $24,000 in outstanding loans. Last August, student loans surpassed credit cards as the nation’s single largest source of debt, edging ever closer to $1 trillion. Yet for all the moralizing about American consumer debt by both parties, no one dares call higher education a bad investment. The nearly axiomatic good of a university degree in American society has allowed a higher education bubble to expand to the point of bursting +…

What kind of incentives motivate lenders to continue awarding six-figure sums to teenagers facing both the worst youth unemployment rate in decades and an increasingly competitive global workforce? …

The Public School (

University of the People (

University of Openess (

Copenhagen Free University

Manoa Free University (

EduFactory (

Radical Education Collective (

Free Slow University of Warsaw (

Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry (

Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).