Engineering Our WorldThe e-newsletter of the MIT School of Engineering

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Educational Innovation

Vol. 1, No. 3, May 2004

Welcome to Engineering Our World, the MIT School of Engineering's free bulletin for alumni and friends. Updated six times yearly, Engineering Our World describes some of the work we're doing at the leading edge of technological change, providing news and articles of the School's major initiatives. Past Issues

Educational Innovation:
Pioneering New Paths Then, Now and in the Future

by Dean Thomas L. Magnanti

This is, hands down, the most exciting time in education in my 33 years here at MIT. We're not simply putting a new kind of tire on the same old bicycle; we're actually transforming it into an all-terrain vehicle!

MIT and Engineering. What comes to mind? "New" and "innovative"? A great, vibrant research university? But did you know that MIT, and especially the School of Engineering, has been a great educational innovator as well? In fact, even as I write today, there is excitement all around us as we forge novel paths in engineering education.

In years past, MIT introduced and defined entire fields of instruction, including chemical and aeronautical engineering; developed widely adopted basic textbooks and other course material; and created new approaches to instruction that have transformed engineering education, including the establishment of a fundamental new model -- engineering science -- some 40 years ago. The Institute is also widely recognized for hands-on engineering and its famous design competitions.

And today? I believe that the MIT School of Engineering will continue to lead in defining engineering education and engineering practice in the 21st century for both the nation and the world. Let me tell you why.

Forces for Change and Inspiration

We are all affected by tremendous change: the fast-paced technological advances of the past decade, the continuing evolution of the fields of engineering, and the far-reaching influences and needs of the world around us. As a result, today's students have significantly different needs from those of previous generations. Also as a result, today's faculty have unparalleled opportunities to rethink some of our long-held approaches to education. So, it is a time of great educational ferment, a time to reexamine our learning methods and revise our educational content.

Innovative Programs and Support for New Approaches

Fueling this renaissance in engineering education, the School of Engineering has launched a major initiative to enhance learning. These include:

  • exposing undergraduate students to the world of practice, as well as to underlying fundamentals,
  • developing new approaches to teaching and learning,
  • creating new fields of instruction and new cross-cutting educational experiences,
  • utilizing advanced technology to facilitate learning, and
  • assessing and defining best practices in engineering education.