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MIT’s announcement of a $1 billion commitment to artificial intelligence discovery through a new College of Computing is a big deal.

The question is will this be a big deal for shaping the future of the higher ed?

In reading the MIT announcement, I can’t find mention of the relationship between this new College and MIT Open Learning.

My guess is that all this is still to be worked out. I imagine that Sanjay Sarma (MIT’s brilliant VP of Open Learning) and his colleagues in Digital Learning (including Dean Rajagopal) will closely collaborate with this new College.

Anyone working in higher ed learning innovation either knows someone in the MIT Open Learning team personally or knows about their work. Ever since the days of the OpenCourseWare Initiative – which dates back all the way to 2002 if you can believe it – MIT has been a leader in postsecondary learning innovation.

As an outsider with no particular knowledge of MIT’s plans regarding AI and learning innovation, I’m free to share some ideas and to ask some questions.

First, I would look to MIT to put learning innovation near the top of the priority list for the big research questions that this new College is going to tackle. The relationship between higher education change and AI research should be articulated. Where does AI fit in with MIT’s and the larger postsecondary communities investments in open online learning?  Can we chart a path towards AI enabled personalized learning at scale?

Second, among the 50 new faculty that MIT is planning to hire in the new College, I would lobby that at least one of these professors be someone who studies higher education. We have no idea how AI might impact the organization or structure of colleges and universities in the future. Someone should be working with all those researchers that MIT is bringing together around AI to study this question.

Third, and finally, I’ll be very curious to see what new open online learning initiatives and residential/blended learning innovations are going to come out of this new College. MIT has developed the infrastructure to bring the knowledge being created in this College to every global learner with a smartphone. The level of investment from this College in open online learning through edX and MITX, as well as other platforms, will be of great interest to the broader open online learning community.

For now, I’d like to join the rest of higher ed in congratulating MIT for announcing this exciting news.

We look forward to understanding MIT’s ambitions for the new Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing to help build a better future for higher education.


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