Project I-Campus:
MIT-Microsoft Alliance

Announced October 5, 1999







MS Research



Overview of Selected MIT Innovations in Education

In 1861, William Barton Rogers founded MIT as a new kind of educational institution, providing aspiring engineers with a scientific foundation and a broad education based on the concept of "Learning By Doing." A response to the emerging industrial era, MIT emphasized the practical applications of science and technology, making it unique among colleges in the U.S. and abroad. This core philosophy has not changed, and throughout its history, the Institute has had a profound effect on education. Pedagogical approaches and course content developed and applied at MIT have shaped entire disciplines and have influenced universities everywhere.

A complete chronicle of MIT contribution to educational innovation would fill many volumes. Here are some highlights.

Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering
In the first few years of MIT, Professors Charles W. Eliot and Francis H. Storer developed a new approach for the instruction of chemistry. They wrote a Manual of Inorganic Chemistry, which revolutionized the teaching of the subject in this country.

Professor Edward C. Pickering, another early faculty member, developed a physics teaching laboratory that was probably the first of its kind anywhere. He pioneered both in physics education and in the application of physics to astronomy, conducting experiments with a colleague that led to the establishment of the first electrical engineering curriculum in the country in 1882.

In the late 1880s and '90s, MIT also established the nation's first curricula in chemical engineering, sanitary engineering, naval architecture, and marine engineering.

In 1913, MIT offered the first university aeronautical engineering course. The Institute's Aeronautics program began that year when the U.S. Navy sent Jerome C. Hunsaker to MIT to teach a special series of aerodynamics courses to Navy officers. The aerodynamics laboratory and wind tunnel built by Professor Hunsaker conducted extensive aircraft performance testing through the 1920s.

Chemical Engineering
In 1916, Dr. Arthur D. Little, an MIT alumnus in industrial chemistry, joined with MIT Professor William H. Walker to found the School of Chemical Engineering Practice. One of the first industrial internship programs, the School continues today, providing chemical engineering students a practical perspective through exposure to industrial practice. The Department of Chemical Engineering was established in 1920 and was the first of its kind in any college. It was headed by Warren K. Lewis, one of the founders of chemical engineering, who also co-authored the first comprehensive textbook on the subject, Principles of Chemical Engineering, with Professors Walker and William H. McAdams.

In 1928, Professor Carl-Gustaf A. Rossby, founder of American meteorology, established the first curriculum in meteorology in the country.

Physics, Science, Social Studies Education
Well-known as an educational reformer, Professor Jerrold Zacharias dedicated much of his life to the improvement of science education in this country. The Physical Sciences Study Committee (PSSC), which he established in the mid 1950s, made important recommendations for the reform of physics education. It also stimulated the production of widely used films, laboratory kits, textbooks, and teacher training materials, aimed at both high school and college students. The PSSC became a model for similar educational reforms in mathematics and most other sciences, and its textbooks were translated into a dozen languages. Concerned with elementary school science education, Professor Zacharias established an independent agency, Educational Services, Inc. (which later became the Educational Development Center, Inc.). ESI had a major impact on American education, including the establishment of an influential Social Studies Curriculum Program.

Foundational Texts: Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, Economics
At its peak in 1944-45, the Radiation Laboratory at MIT was one of the world's outstanding research and development centers. The famed "Rad Lab" made major strides in the development of radar and other groundbreaking technology and later published its scientific and engineering achievements in the widely acclaimed 27-volume Radiation Laboratory Series. These books, as well as a three-volume series of electrical engineering textbooks produced at MIT a few years earlier,served as a foundation for the study of electrical engineering around the world in the decades following WWII.

Professors in various fields wrote important textbooks at the midpoint of the century, work that served as primary texts for students in subsequent years. Calculus and Analytical Geometry by Professor George B. Thomas, for example, is now in its ninth edition. Economics: An Introductory Analysis by Nobel laureate and Institute Professor Emeritus Paul A. Samuelson was the first textbook to present an introduction to the principles of Keynesian economics and is the best-selling economics text of all time.

Conceptual Foundation of Modern Engineering
The concept of "engineering science" articulated by Professor Gordon Brown in the 1950s and '60s has shaped engineering education for several decades, influencing all disciplines of engineering at MIT and at many other universities. Professor Brown stressed a foundation in fundamental sciences such as mathematics and physics; as Dean of the School of Engineering, he also advocated the "research center" to encourage interdepartmental, interdisciplinary research. His concepts helped to reconfigure technical and engineering schools around the world, and today nearly all engineering education is grounded in a dynamic, changing base of science.

New Models for Education; New Learning Experiences for Students
MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) began 30 years ago under the leadership of Professor Margaret MacVicar as the first of its kind in the country and has become the nation's largest. In UROP, undergraduate students participate as junior colleagues of faculty, conducting research both inside and outside their own fields of study. Incoming freshman cite UROP as one of MIT's biggest attractions and more than 80% of seniors have conducted at least one UROP project. Serving as a model, this breakthrough progam has profoundly affected higher education in this country.

In the late 1950s, MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering began a design curriculum that challenged students to formulate original solutions -- a radical change from having them reproduce or modify existing designs. MIT's course "2.007 - Design and Manufacturing I" closes with a contest, now in its 29th year, that pits student-designed and -built machines against each other in an exciting elimination tournament. The course has served as a model for many other universities.

Beginning in the late 1960s in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and continuing through today at the MIT Media Laboratory, Professor Seymour Papert has been exploring the processes of children's learning through a computer language and a philosophy of education called Logo. As the first computer language for children, Logo engaged young people in the problems of using logic to direct the movements of a computer-controlled "turtle," which later led to learning by designing, inventing, and experimenting. This new approach, presented in the book Mindstorms, opened the frontiers of computing to a generation of elementary school children. More recently, MIT's Media Lab researchers have invented technologies used by millions of children around the world, which support and propagate this distinctive style of learning.

During the 1980s, MIT led American academic institutions in internationalization with the Japan Program, the largest, most comprehensive, and most widely copied center of applied Japanese studies in the world. Established in 1981, the MIT Japan Program oversees the training of MIT science, engineering, and management students in Japanese language and culture, placing them as interns in Japanese companies, universities, and government organizations.

Launched in 1988, the Leaders For Manufacturing forged a partnership between MIT and industry to produce world-class manufacturing leaders. LFM focuses on the interface between engineering and management, adopting new approaches to collaboration, education, and research in both academic and industrial environments. LFM aims to build relationships between universities and industry in management and engineering.

MIT's Project Athena (1983-1991) pioneered large-scale academic computing environments. Primarily recognized now for its technological innovations, it also extensively investigated the best uses of computers to support university education, exploring a wide range of pedagogical approaches in many different courses and subjects. Several Project Athena courseware projects, developed by MIT faculty, won national awards. By the time Project Athena had ended, it had made the Athena suite of system software available to universities and laboratories everywhere; this included some programs that became industry standards, such as the X Windows system and Kerberos network security. The Athena computing environment itself has received national acclaim, in particular for on-line tools and resources which support education, as well as those facilitating scaleable, cost-effective management of large-scale academic computing environments.

Recent Innovations
Created in 1997, MIT's System Design and Management Program (SDM), is the Institute's first degree-granting program offered through distance education. SDM's holistic "total enterprise" approach provides students both breadth in management sciences and depth in engineering, specifically in the areas of system design and new product development. SDM offers two graduate-level programs: a 24-month off-campus, video-conference- and web-based curriculum and a 13-month on-campus program. Both options lead to a master's degree granted jointly by MIT's School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management. SDM also works closely with industry and other universities to develop academic programs and conduct research focusing on this new approach to engineering and leadership.

In May 1999, a grant from the National Science Foundation helped establish a new consortium called "PD21: the Education Consortium for Product Development Leadership in the 21st Century" to expand the SDM master's degree program at MIT to two other universities. In conjunction with SDM, MIT's Center for Innovation in Product Development (CIPD), with its partners at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), established a new master's degree in product development at all three institutions.

In November 1998, MIT joined in an alliance with the two leading research universities in Singapore in what may be the first truly global collaboration in graduate engineering education and research. Spanning 12 time zones, the MIT-Singapore Alliance (SMA) joins The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and MIT to explore the application of information technology in the creation of a new global model for long-distance engineering education and collaborative research. The program makes extensive use of state-of-the-art information and communications technology, including Internet2, to facilitate interactions in teaching and research between MIT faculty, and students and faculty in Singapore. In July 1999, the alliance began offering two master's-level degree programs created and delivered by faculty from the three institutions and hosted by NUS. SMA is expected to have far-reaching implications for the future of distance education.

October 5, 1999