New Director of Digital Learning

November 20, 2012

To the members of the MIT Community:
In my inaugural remarks, I proposed that as MIT pushes the frontier of online learning through MITx and edX, we should also use our campus community as a laboratory for inventing the residential research university of the future. Today, I am delighted to announce that we have created a new position, the Director of Digital Learning, and that Sanjay Sarma, the Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, has agreed to take on this pivotal role.
A highly accomplished researcher whose interests range from RFID to computational geometry to manufacturing, Professor Sarma brings to this position tremendous gifts as both a teacher and as a leader of complex new enterprises. Since joining our faculty in 1996, he has won numerous awards for his teaching, including the MacVicar Faculty Fellowship, MIT’s highest teaching honor. In addition to launching a start-up firm based on his own research, he co-founded the Auto-ID Lab at MIT and, in his role as Director of the MIT/SUTD Collaboration Office, he has helped guide the creation of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). Professor of Mechanical Engineering John G. Brisson, currently a Cluster Lead of SUTD's freshman curriculum, will take over Professor Sarma’s role as the liaison between MIT and SUTD.
As Director of Digital Learning, Professor Sarma will serve as a convener and synthesizer. He will explore, collect and build on the wisdom and experience of individuals and groups across our community, and lead us in shaping a coherent vision. On the subject of blending online learning and residential education, he will also serve as experimenter-in-chief, assessing what is working best in MIT’s current educational model, what we could do more effectively and what kind of changes we should pursue, from the way course content is delivered to the way we shape the campus itself. Throughout, he will work hand in hand with our edX team, led by Professor Anant Agarwal, and our edX partner universities, especially in interpreting the huge flow of edX data about how people learn.
In his new role, Professor Sarma will report jointly to the chancellor and the provost, and will also take on the management of MIT OpenCourseWare. Professor Ike Chuang will work with him as Associate Director of Digital Learning.
I look forward to working with them as we explore this exciting new territory.
L. Rafael Reif