Hazel Sive - MITx Grant Program selects eight new innovative digital learning projects

New projects emphasize using digital methods not possible in traditional classes, leveraging research-based teaching practices, and measuring student learning.

Lisa Eichel | Office of Digital Learning
March 16, 2016

The Office of Digital Learning (ODL) recently announced the recipients of its Spring 2016 MITx Grant Program. The program funds the development and operation of online modules that leverage the edX platform for both global and residential audiences, in support of the digital learning strategies of MIT schools and departments. 

In this second call for proposals, opened in November, ODL received 18 proposals from 14 different MIT departments and centers. The MITx Faculty Advisory Committee selected eight projects to be funded following a comprehensive review.

Recipients of the MITx Grants are:

  • 3.012 (Fundamentals of Materials Science and Engineering), Department of Materials Science and Engineering, submitted by Professor Silvia Gradečak and digital learning scientist Jessica Sandland;
  • 6.805 (Foundations of Information Policy), Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, submitted by Professor Hal Abelson, Professor Michael Fischer (Department of Anthropology), and principal research scientist Daniel Weitzner (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory);
  • 7.28/7.58 (Molecular Biology: RNA Processing and Translation), Department of Biology, submitted by Professor Steve Bell, Professor Tania Baker, and digital learning scientist Mary Ellen Wiltrout;
  • 8.04 (Quantum Mechanics), Department of Physics, submitted by Professor Barton Zwiebach and digital learning scientist Saif Rayyan;
  • 8.422 (Atomic and Optical Physics II), Department of Physics, submitted by Professor Wolfgang Ketterle and digital learning scientist Saif Rayyan;
  • 17.571 (Contemporary African Democracy), Department of Political Science, submitted by Professor Evan Lieberman;
  • 18.03 (Linear Differential Equations), Department of Mathematics, submitted by Professor David Jerison and digital learning scientist Jennifer French; and
  • 21H.214 (Visualizing the Philippines), Department of History, submitted by Professor Christopher Capozzola.

“MITx grants provide a fantastic mechanism for developing new courses. It is an enormous privilege to work with the MITx Faculty Advisory Committee in reviewing the grant applications,” said committee co-chair Professor Hazel Sive. “The review was very well organized by ODL staff, and ran as a fair and collegial process.”

Each round, ODL outlines several specific objectives that digital learning project proposals should aim to meet. Goals for this call included teaching using digital methods not possible in the traditional classroom, leveraging research-based teaching practices, and measuring student learning.

"The quality of the proposals was really very high. Hazel did an amazing job of chairing the NSF-like grant review process. I thank her and the other faculty on the committee for their diligence and thoughtfulness,” said Sanjay Sarma, vice president of open learning and co-chair of the MITx Faculty Advisory Committee.

Though budgetary constraints limited the number of proposals that could be funded, the review committee provided constructive feedback for the remaining grant applications and advised faculty on finding alternate routes for these projects. Overall, the proposals received exceeded expectations and continued to demonstrate the commitment of MIT faculty and their academic departments to transforming education both at MIT and beyond the campus.

The projects will begin development this summer. The MITx Grant Program will be opened twice annually, with the next one expected later this year. In the meantime, ODL welcomes inquiries from any MIT faculty member about how they can incorporate digital learning into their current teaching or explore a new project.

The Office of Digital Learning is also supporting a number of other courses and projects across campus and on