Modern Education Has a Global Classroom
“This is a time when education is changing dramatically,” said Dr. Ian Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Waitz recently visited Volpe and gave a talk as part of our speaker series, which enables a stimulating information exchange with today's thought leaders in transportation on emerging and future transportation issues.
Students now have a much more global, socially conscious perspective. They are more plugged in, and are increasingly interested in hands-on experiences. According to Waitz, the students are now leading the way. No matter what engineering degree they pursue, there is a need for a different curriculum; one that incorporates the multidisciplinary aspect of engineering.
Since 2005, engineering enrollment has increased 30-50 percent. “People are recognizing this is a field I can get into if I want to change the world,” said Waitz.
Over the last 10 years, significant changes have occurred in how we can deliver information. There is now an opportunity to innovate education in ways that weren’t possible in the past. MIT and Harvard pioneered edX, a non-profit open source online learning platform that offers higher education courses. Students can take courses from Harvard, MIT, Berkley, McGill, and numerous other well-known colleges and universities around the world. The goal of edX is to provide high-quality education online for free.
Due to MIT’s partnerships and online education programs, like edX, students can take their informal learning out of the classroom without missing a class. The ability to learn online through edX “breaks the requirement for being synchronous in time and colocated,” said Waitz.
Don’t be fooled, though; the informal learning experiences are just as rigorous (if not more so) as traditional coursework. One partnership with Lincoln Labs allows Lincoln to set a problem and enlist a team of engineers comprised of MIT students and Lincoln staff to work collaboratively to address the high-level problem over a one- or two-semester period.
In the 1980s and 1990s, MIT was placing less than 30 students a year in global internships. Currently, MIT has 700 students in global internship experiences. One way students learn globally through MIT is to travel to developing countries and attempt to solve practical, real-world problems; students then test their solution onsite.
“We have the opportunity now because we don’t all have to be in the same place at the same time,” Waitz said.