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The March 2010 letter from the senior officers who created the Task Force announced the formation of groups tasked with taking a special look at certain ideas generated by the Task Force. Below are descriptions of what each group was asked to do and where it is in the process. Groups may post updates to their summaries at a later date.

Benefits Advisory Group
This group was asked to deepen the understanding of different HR-related proposals and to advise on potential options and implementation paths.

This group completed its detailed review of MIT's retirement and health programs at the end of the Spring 2010 semester. Its findings suggested that there are modifications that could be made to some of MIT's retirement benefits to improve their long-term sustainability and still maintain competitiveness. It also noted that making changes should be approached with caution, since change, if affecting the current faculty and staff, could be disruptive to the campus.

The Benefits Advisory Group did support looking at the design of our pension plan for new hires to make sure that it is simple, understandable and most importantly, competitive with institutions where we would recruit for faculty and staff. The group also looked into minor modifications to the retiree medical benefit and specific features of the current retirement program for active employees.

The potential changes in design and different implementation possibilities were discussed thoroughly with the Institute's leadership throughout the last few months. More information about the senior administration's deliberations will be forthcoming later in the term.

Expanding Educational Opportunities
This group was asked to take an in-depth look at expanding residential opportunities ranging from professional education to offering existing class capacity to special students and visitors.

This working group has made considerable progress in exploring options to expand educational opportunities. The group has carefully examined strengths and weaknesses of increasing the number of transfer students, the number of special students, and increasing 3+2 programs. While final recommendations are still being developed, the general consensus of the group is that with a few exceptions, increases in these programs are not recommended. The group has also examined the strengths and weaknesses of expanding summer program offerings. Again, while final recommendations are still being refined, the group does see exciting opportunities to utilize our educational and intellectual plant during the summer. Finally, the potential for increased professional education offerings is still being examined, with results anticipated in fall 2011.

The working group will begin discussions with faculty and departments aimed at identifying possible development plans for summer program offerings and increased professional education offerings. A potential market study, to determine the scope of the opportunity, may also be conducted. A goal of introducing a pilot program in academic year 2011-2012 is anticipated.

E-Learning Opportunities
This group was asked to further evaluate new educational opportunities and e-learning. These scalable educational platforms are educational offerings that use online, asynchronous tools to create new learning opportunities and could reach a greater number of students. In particular the group was asked to consider 1) How MIT OpenCourseWare could be extended to offer certificates; and 2) Opportunities to provide complete asynchronous education and offerings that are totally online.

This Study Group has met regularly since September 2010 and is actively exploring possibilities and issues for MIT in online education. In the fall, the group engaged in a range of exploratory activities, such as:

  • Developing a preliminary understanding of the online education landscape
  • Considering key opportunities, risks, and guiding principles
  • Proposing and discussing a preliminary list of possibilities, and
  • Broadly exploring a range of issues related to online education such as authentication, quality, delivery and certification.

A preliminary report was submitted to the Provost in December 2010. The committee is currently meeting with groups across the MIT community to engage in discussions about MIT's potential engagement in online education. Going forward, the committee expects to draw upon input from the community and develop and evaluate a small set of particularly promising near-term possibilities. A final report to the Provost is expected later this year (2011).

The MIT Council on Educational Technology
MITCET, a committee formed in 1999, was asked to explore educational models combining the residential experience with on-line and asynchronous methods for education.

The MIT Council on Educational Technology is exploring how MIT could benefit educationally from increasingly available information online and increasingly fast and inexpensive communication, even globally. The goal of these explorations is to actualize new ways of teaching and learning in MIT's educational programs that would be transformational, and that could fundamentally enhance and improve the student experience.

In its deliberations over the fall, the Council identified several areas of opportunity, all of which share the theme of modularity: providing experiences for students that are more flexible both in time (not always organized into one-semester chunks) and geography (not always on campus).

For example, faculty and departments might design subjects that include immersive supervised research experiences, augmented by self-study of preparatory material. With effective use of communication and information technology it could even be possible for faculty to create student "expeditions": short-term internships, on-location research activities, or service-learning projects that take students off-campus for two or three weeks during the semester, while still enabling them to successfully continue in other classes they are taking that semester.

The Council is now beginning discussions with faculty and departments aimed at identifying feasibility demonstrations in these areas, to begin in academic year 2011-2012, with experiments at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The focus will be on incubating initiatives that could have broad scope and applicability across MIT.

Printing and Digital Archiving
This group was asked to continue to work on the area of infrastructure to enable effective printing strategies and reduce costs and distribution of printed materials, develop record retention policies, and pursue electronic storage systems to enable the elimination of paper records and archives.

The group has completed its work and has prepared a report. The work of the team and the approach taken were based on the following principles:

  • Work with the vast pool of ideas generated by the IT@MIT and the Administrative Process Working groups of the Planning Task Force, rather than solicit more ideas from DLCs.
  • Focus on pain point removal and process simplification, to avoid carrying inefficiencies from a paper to a digital process.
  • Leverage concurrent work of other groups, Leader to Leader Digital MIT Report, Recommendations of the VPF Digital Archiving Team and visions and work reflected in roadmaps for Student Systems, Administrative Systems, Mobile and Data being developed collaboratively by IS&T with respective sponsors.
  • Review and compare feature sets of existing tools and practices to better align needs with solutions.
  • Recognize the importance of collaboration and secure sharing of data and the use of the MIT Data warehouse as a key repository and data distribution hub.
  • Avoid proprietary one-off solutions and require that tools are capable of secure data sharing.
  • Look for evolutionary pathways to solutions that balance short term needs with long-term sustainable solutions.

Measuring and Understanding—Education Model
This group was asked to refine the undergraduate cost of education model and extend the model to incorporate graduate education and research.

Phase one of this assignment was to refine the undergraduate cost model. This has been completed. A faculty advisory group guided this work and reviewed the methodology, assumptions and results. There was general agreement that the estimates developed were reasonable. The group is currently updating the model with current and historical data to measure how costs have changed over time. Phase two of this assignment is to build a model for graduate education and research. The cost of the graduate education and research system is highly correlated to both research volume and the number of graduate students and the mix of programs and research areas. This work is currently under development and is incorporating input and advice from the faculty advisors.

Measuring and Understanding—Space Economy
This group was asked to examine our academic frameworks for accountability and develop metrics and improved cost models for space. The group was told that these metrics will improve accountability and transparency and should ultimately lead to sustained savings through increased efficiency of our operations.

A group was organized to develop an overall plan for implementing the space economy. This group recommended a two-phase implementation strategy. The first phase involved the development of a web-based tool that permits accurate assessment of space utilization. The tool would be deployed into individual departments/lab/centers where local space managers can organize data on space utilization. This tool will access Institute records such as the space accounting database and HR/Student databases to ensure accurate information. The expectation is that this tool will enable more effective local management of space. In addition, it will provide accurate data for informing decisions around new space assignments, particularly when this involves re-assignment of space between different units.

The second phase of the space economy involves development of incentives for efficient use of space. With the benefit of accurate data generated in the first phase, we will explore various options to incentivize effective usage of space.

The first phase activity has been launched, with the initiation of a project in IS&T to develop the software system. A steering committee is being formed to guide the design and rollout of this system. In addition, a faculty advisory group is being formed to begin discussion of appropriate space metrics that can be used for data analysis, and subsequently to focus on a discussion of incentives to be implemented in the second phase. We anticipate that the first phase of activity will be completed in AY11.