Recap of the Big Things I did at work in 2014-2015

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Every year, we submit a report that shares the highlights of our unit activities at MIT. Drawing nearly verbatim from this report, below is a list of the major activities I was involved with for the last fiscal year (running July-June). Below is a list of the major activities I was involved with for the last fiscal year (running July-June). You can also look back on reports from 2013-2014, 2012-2013 and 2011-2012.

Strategic Education Initiatives – July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015

Developing Collaborations

Developing collaborations in support of Institute strategic initiatives, including:

  • Working with MIT’s Office of Resource Development on a large initiative with Saudi Aramco including digital learning,
  • Working with the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Electronics Research Laboratory on the AIM Photonics project that proposed the development an Integrated Photonics-Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (with SUNY Polytechnic Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Rochester, University of Arizona, and others), and
  • Proposing a collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Lab to propose a project to support the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s education programs.

Connected Learning Initiative

The Connected Learning Initiative (CLIx) is a collaboration among MIT, the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS) and with funding from the Jamestji Tata Trust that aims to improve the professional and academic prospects of high schools students in underserved communities in India. The initiative aims to reach a total of approximately 1,000 schools and 150,000 students in 4 states during 2015–2017, as well as conduct professional development for approximately 2,700 teachers.

At MIT, SEI is collaborating with Prof. Eric Klopfer and his team in the Education Arcade to design and develop modules in English, science and mathematics for Grades 8, 9 and 11. The MIT team is leading the design on a number of modules and is mentoring the development of a number of additional modules through capacity building efforts based on the 11.132x MITx course on the Design and Development of Educational Technology and through an annual design camp.

Learning Sciences and Online Learning Symposium

On May 21-22, 2015 SEI convened a Learning Sciences and Online Learning Symposium with support from the National Science Foundation that brought together faculty and researchers from across the United States and at MIT to discuss the intersection between the Learning Sciences and Online Learning. It is expected that the outcomes of this symposium will not only inform digital / online learning activities at participants’ institutions but also influence development policy, practice and scholarship in an area that is becoming central to the discourse on educational change. In particular, the symposium will focus on how online learning might help meet the persistent challenges that discipline-based educational researchers have identified in teaching within their disciplines. The symposium focused on three themes:

  • Threshold and difficult to learn concepts, as well as common misconceptions, that online and digital environments can address
  • Unique and different opportunities that are afforded in online and digital environments
  • Community and community interaction in online and digital learning experiences

Transformation Agenda Collaboration

SEI collaborated with the Massachusetts Community Colleges and Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA) project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Act. In collaboration with several Massachusetts Community Colleges partners SEI design and development of innovative technology enabled learning modules in advanced manufacturing and created a proof-of-concept for integration between community colleges and career centers.

Data Bus

SEI collaborated with Quinsigamond, Bristol, and Middlesex Community Colleges, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), and Department of Career Services (DCS), and representatives of MA One Stop Career Centers, to prototype innovative software services for increased data-sharing and streamlining of processes among colleges, DHE and the workforce system. The Data Bus has been designed, piloted and demonstrated to partners and stakeholders, who recognize the large-scale impact and great potential of shared services, data and tools. The initial project was completed and successfully demonstrated to Transformation Agenda partners and stakeholders conference in August 2014. The Data Bus promises large scale potential and is garnering interest from other states and government organizations. SEI is collaborating with Quinsigamond Community College to extend the data bus and is in discussions with a number of other colleges and universities across the United States.

Online Case Studies

SEI developed two online case study modules: Introduction to Problem Solving and Improving Observation Skills. The goal of the case studies is to help provide students opportunities to integrate their knowledge and tackle real-world issues that face advanced manufacturing companies. Both case studies are designed to supplement existing curriculum. The case studies being are designed to be used as homework assignments to get student to thinks about the importance of soft skill, followed with an in class discussion.

  • The Problem Solving Case Study outlines the importance of problem solving skills, introduces students to different strategies for tackling problems, and incorporates an interactive choose-your-own-adventure activity.
  • The Improving Observation Skills case study introduces how observation skills and mindfulness are emphasized in shift changes, in workplace safety awareness, and for a company’s financial stability.


SEI developed a module to help improve students’ 3D visualizing skills. 3D “thinking” skills are required for many of the kinds of things advanced manufacturing students and employees are expected to do, whether its understanding a technical drawing or programming routing paths to send to a multi-axis milling machine.

The Ortho-to-3D Online Learning Module is a set of assessments in which students are tested on whether they can find the correct 2D projection based on analyzing an interactive 3D rendering of an object and vice versa. For this project, an online assessment environment was developed in which students are tested on their 3D “thinking”.

iCampus Student Prize

The iCampus Student Prize is an annual competition that recognizes innovative and creative applications of technology that improve living and learning at MIT. The Prize is endowed through the iCampus research collaboration between Microsoft Research and MIT. In 2015, the competition asked students to explore living and learning at MIT thirty years from now.

SEI, on behalf of the MIT Council on Education Technology, awarded the grand prize of the 2015 iCampus Student Prize competition to, William Li, ‘G and Dhruv Jain, ‘G for AccessMIT, a vision for a more accessible MIT. The competition also recognized Colin McDonnell, ‘16; John Peurifoy, ’18; Gabriel Ginorio, ’18 and Sam Van Cise, ’18 of Team a14z for an exploration of the exponential future provided by computers and virtual reality to change the campus experience.