Project I-Campus:
MIT-Microsoft Alliance

October 5, 1999







MS Research



MIT-Microsoft Alliance FAQ

What is the goal of this alliance?
The new MIT-Microsoft alliance, called I-Campus, will enhance university education through research and development of information technology. Its goal is to create and demonstrate technologies that can produce revolutionary IT-enabled teaching models and improved educational tools. The focus will be on realizing the potential for new pedagogical structures, integrating information technology concepts and methods throughout the curriculum, and addressing the changing environment for university education.

What is Microsoft contributing?
Microsoft will provide $25 million for work at MIT over an initial five years. Microsoft will also provide software support and research staff for joint projects that will create novel course and program content as well as new educational tools.

What is MIT contributing?
MIT's greatest resources are its talented faculty, students, and research staff. In addition to these intellectual resources, MIT will serve as a "living laboratory" for the development and testing of new teaching models and educational tools, providing direction of the research and facilities for the projects.

How is this program/agreement different or unique from past partnerships between Microsoft and other universities?
This is Microsoft Research's largest alliance to date with a university. Past cooperative efforts between Microsoft and other universities have involved donations (either cash or software) and/or support of specific research projects. This alliance will provide widespread support for joint research projects that will create technologies that will affect education in the next decade.

How is this program/agreement different or unique from other alliances MIT has entered into with other corporations?
This is the first major alliance into which MIT has entered which focuses entirely on making technology an integral part of higher education.

What are the areas of research and development the alliance will address?
The alliance will involve research and development in three broad areas in which information technology has a major impact on university education:

  • New pedagogical approaches and structures. Possibilities include remote access to laboratory instruments, new software tools for delivering educational content, and new tools to aid student learning, such as tutoring and mentoring at a distance, and web-based virtual museums.
  • Integrating information technology concepts and methods throughout university education. Examples include large-scale collaborative engineering design, the study of complex systems, and the to creation of information-based curricula across traditional disciplinary boundaries.
  • Addressing the changing environment of university education. Options include providing education at a distance and life-long learning to a larger community and the impact of digital information technologies on academic publishing.

What will the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) do and who is on it?
Composed of three members from MIT and three members from Microsoft [photo], the Joint Steering Committee will review proposals for research projects and manage the collaborative research, selecting research projects proposed by MIT. It will review the progress of ongoing projects and select new ones on a yearly basis. Members of the JSC are:

  • Peter Pathé, Co-Chair, General Manager, Microsoft Research, University Relations
  • Hal Abelson, Co-Chair, MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Thomas L. Magnanti, Institute Professor and Dean of MIT's School of Engineering
  • Anoop Gupta, Sr. Researcher, Microsoft Research, Collaboration and Multimedia Systems Group
  • M. S. Vijay Kumar, Director, MIT's Academic Computing, Information Systems
  • William Vablais, Program Manager, Microsoft Research , University Relations

What projects are on the table?
The five-year effort involves cooperative projects between MIT and Microsoft Research personnel. The alliance begins with three initial projects:

  • Expansion of The MIT Shakespeare Electronic Archive(SEA): The SEA combines electronic texts and wide collections of art, film, and digital facsimiles of early editions of Shakespeare's works, made accessible for both classroom use and research. The planned expansion of the SEA will include the development of new software tools allowing users to create their own organizations and representations of the archive's contents; the creation of tools that allow people to use the archive collaboratively over the Internet; and the extension and adaptation of additional materials for the world Wide Web.
  • Educational System for Global Education Project: Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and The National University of Singapore will collaboratively design an educational system for global education that optimizes student learning. Focusing first and foremost on the student's educational needs, the project will examine activities in a "global classroom" recently established between the two universities which delivers graduate engineering education across 12 time zones using Internet2. (This global classroom has been implemented under the auspices of the Singapore-MIT Alliance which was formed last year by MIT, The National University of Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University.)
  • MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics initiative to make the conception-design-implementation-operation of systems and products the engineering context of education will be expanded to include the experimental use of distance collaboration in design courses. Using desktop video-conferencing, designers and students from various remote sites will work together by linking outside experts "into" MIT subjects, and by allowing collaboration of graduate level designers in a parallel course at peer engineering departments.

Who at MIT worked on creating the alliance with Microsoft?
Members of MIT's team have been:

  • Thomas L. Magnanti, Institute Professor and Dean of MIT's School of Engineering
  • Hal Abelson, MIT Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • M. S. Vijay Kumar, Director, MIT's Academic Computing, Information Systems
  • Dick Larson, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Director of MIT's Center For Advanced Educational Services
  • Steve Lerman, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Director of MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives
  • Rachel Oberai-Soltz, Manager of Corporate Relations, MIT Office of Corporate Relations
  • Chris Terman, Senior Lecturer, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

What other education initiatives are currently going on at MIT?
The announcement of the MIT-Microsoft alliance, Project I-Campus, comes against a backdrop of significant endeavors begun in the past few years intended to enhance excellence and effectiveness in education and research at MIT. These include:

  • the establishment of the Council on Educational Technology (announced last week) to enhance the quality of MIT education through appropriate application of technology, to both on-campus life and learning and learning at a distance;
  • the creation of the Educational Media Creation Center (EMCC) to support the production of sustainable, qualified media and web-based educational materials for MIT;
  • a $10M gift to the Institute by Alex d'Arbeloff (SB 1949), chair of the Corporation, and his wife Brit d'Arbeloff (SM 1961, mechanical engineering) to establish the d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education that will focus on the process of education and support innovations by MIT faculty in teaching science and engineering;
  • the Singapore-MIT Alliance, a large-scale, global collaboration in high-quality graduate engineering education and research with Singapore's two leading research universities, which may result in an "exportable model" for distance collaboration in research and education;
  • several strategic alliances in which MIT has joined with industry partners have earmarked funds for enhancing education: the Ford/MIT partnership, which includes virtual education as one of three research areas and the study of engineering design and educational environments of the future as one of its initial priorities; Merrill Lynch partnership which includes funding for creating curricula at the interface of Finance and Computer Science; and the Merck Partnership which includes graduate fellowship funding for Bioinformatics at the interface of Biology and Computer Science;
  • the System Design and Management Program, the Institute's only degree-granting educational program offered mainly at a distance,
  • the planned construction of the Ray and Maria Center for computer, information, and intelligence sciences, which is expected to foster innovations in cognitive and computer sciences, and
  • the ongoing implementation of recommendations made by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning (1998), which include the encouragement of educational experimentation, and more specifically, the performance of carefully designed experiments in educational technology and in learning at a distance.


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