MIT Institutional Research
Office of the Provost
  Education Highlights


MIT has long maintained that professional competence is best fostered by coupling teaching with research and by focusing education on practical problems. This hands-on approach has made MIT a consistent leader in outside surveys of the nation’s best colleges. MIT was the first university in the country to offer curriculums in architecture (1865), electrical engineering (1882), sanitary engineering (1889), naval architecture and marine engineering (1895), aeronautical engineering (1914), meteorology (1928), nuclear physics (1935), and artificial intelligence (1960s). More than 4,000 MIT graduates are professors at colleges and universities around the world. MIT faculty have written some of the best-selling textbooks of all time, such as Economics by Paul A. Samuelson and Calculus and Analytic Geometry by George Thomas. The following are some notable MIT teaching milestones since 1969, when humans, including MIT alumnus Buzz Aldrin, first landed on the moon.

1969 MIT launches the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), the first of its kind. The program, which enables undergraduates to work directly with faculty on professional research, subsequently is copied in universities throughout the world. About 2,400 MIT students participate in UROP annually.

1970 The Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology is established to focus advances in science and technology on human health and to train physicians with a strong base in engineering and science.

1971 MIT holds its first Independent Activities Period (IAP), a January program that emphasizes creativity and flexibility in teaching and learning.

1977 MIT organizes the Program in Science, Technology, and Society to explore and teach courses on the social context and consequences of science and technology—one of the first programs of its kind in the U.S.

1981 MIT launches Project Athena, a $70 million program to explore the use of computers in education. Digital Equipment Corporation and IBM each contribute $25 million in computer equipment.

1981 The MIT Sloan School of Management launches its Management of Technology program, the world’s first master’s program to focus on the strategic management of technology and innovation.

1983–1990 MIT language and computer science faculty join in the Athena Language Learning Project to develop interactive videos that immerse students in the language and character of other cultures. The work pioneers a new generation of language learning tools.

1984 MIT establishes the Media Laboratory, bringing together pioneering educational programs in computer music, film, graphics, holography, lasers, and other media technologies.

1991 MIT establishes the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program, named in honor of the late Margaret A. MacVicar, to recognize outstanding contributions to teaching. MacVicar, a professor of physics, had conceived of, designed, and launched UROP (see 1969, above).

1992 MIT launches the Laboratory for Advanced Technology in the Humanities to extend its pioneering work in computer- and video-assisted language learning to other disciplines. Its first venture was a text and performance multimedia archive for studies of Shakespeare’s plays.

1993 In recognition of the increasing importance of molecular and cell biology, MIT becomes the first college in the nation to add biology to its undergraduate requirement.

1995 MIT’s Political Science Department establishes the Washington Summer Internship Program to provide undergraduates the opportunity to apply their scientific and technical training to public policy issues.

1998 MIT teams up with Singapore’s two leading research universities to create a global model for long-distance engineering education and research. This large-scale experiment, the first truly global collaboration in graduate engineering education and research, is a model for today’s distance education.

1999 The University of Cambridge and MIT establish the Cambridge-MIT Institute, whose programs include student and faculty exchanges, an integrated research program, professional practice education, and a national competitiveness network in Britain.

1999 MIT establishes the Society of Presidential Fellows to honor the most outstanding students worldwide entering the Institute’s graduate programs. With gifts provided by lead donors, presidential fellows are awarded fellowships that fund first year tuition and living expenses.

2000 MIT Faculty approve the Communication Requirement (CR), which went into effect for the Class of 2005. The CR integrates substantial instruction and practice in writing and speaking into all four years and across all parts of MIT’s undergraduate program. Students participate regularly in activities designed to develop both general and technical communication skills.

2001 Studio Physics is introduced to teach freshman physics. Incorporating a highly collaborative, hands-on environment that uses networked laptops and desktop experiments, the new curriculum lets students work directly with complicated and unfamiliar concepts as their professors introduce them.

2001 MIT launches OpenCourseWare, a program that makes materials for nearly all of its courses freely available on the web and serves as a model for sharing knowledge to benefit all humankind.

2001 MIT establishes WebLab, a microelectronics teaching laboratory that allows students to interact remotely on the Web with transistors and other microelectronics devices anywhere and at any time.

2001 MIT’s Earth System Initiative launches Terrascope, a freshman course in which students work in teams to solve complex earth sciences problems. Bringing together physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, management, and communications, the course has enabled students to devise strategies for preserving tropical rainforests, understand the costs and the benefits of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and plan a mission to Mars.

2002 To give engineering students the opportunity to develop the skills they’ll need to be leaders in the workplace, MIT introduces the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP). The program involves a corporate training workshop, job seminars taught by alumni, and a 10-week summer internship.

2003 MIT Libraries introduce DSpace, a digital repository that gathers, stores, and preserves the intellectual output of MIT’s faculty and research staff, and makes it freely available to research institutions worldwide. Within a year of its launch, DSpace material had been downloaded more than 8,000 times, and more than 100 organizations had adopted the system for their own use.

2003 MIT’s Program in Computational and Systems Biology (CSBi), an Institute-wide program linking biology, engineering, and computer science in a systems biology approach to the study of cell-to-cell signaling, tissue formation, and cancer, begins accepting students for a new Ph.D. program that will give them the tools for treating biological entities as complex living systems.

2005 Combining courses from engineering, mathematics, and management, MIT launches its master’s program in Computation for Design and Optimization, one of the first curriculums in the country to focus on the computational modeling and design of complex engineered systems. The program prepares engineers for the challenges of making systems ranging from computational biology to airline scheduling to telecommunications design and operations run with maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

2006 MIT creates the Campaign for Students, a fundraising effort dedicated to enhancing the educational experience at MIT through creating scholarships and fellowships, and supporting multidisciplinary education and student life.

2007 MIT makes material from virtually all MIT courses available online for free on OpenCourseWare. The publication marks the beginning of a worldwide movement toward open education that now involves more than 160 universities and 5,000 courses.

2009 MIT launches the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. Through interaction with industry leaders, faculty, and fellow students, the program aims to help undergraduate engineering students develop the skills, tools, and character they will need as future engineering leaders.

2009 MIT introduces a minor in energy studies, open to all undergraduates. The new minor, unlike most energy concentrations available at other institutions, and unlike any other concentration at MIT, is designed to be inherently cross-disciplinary, encompassing all of MIT’s five schools. It can be combined with any major subject. The minor aims to allow students to develop expertise and depth in their major disciplines, but then complement that with the breadth of understanding offered by the energy minor.

2010 MIT introduces the flexible engineering degree for undergraduates. The degree, the first of its kind, allows students to complement a deep disciplinary core with an additional subject concentration. The additional concentration can be broad and interdisciplinary in nature (energy, transportation, or the environment), or focused on areas that can be applied to multiple fields (robotics and controls, computational engineering, or engineering management).

2011 MIT announces MITx, an online learning initiative that will offer a portfolio of free MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform. The Institute expects the platform to enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students and serve as a host for a virtual community of millions of learners around the world. The MITx prototype course—6.002x or “Circuits and Electronics”—debuts in March 2012 with almost 155,000 people registering for the course.

2012 MIT and Harvard University announce edX, a transformational new partnership in online education. Through edX, the two institutions will collaborate to enhance campus-based teaching and learning and build a global community of online learners. An open-source technology platform will deliver online courses that move beyond the standard model of online education that relies on watching video content and will offer an interactive experience for students. The University of California at Berkeley later joins edX. The three institutions offer the first edX courses in fall 2012.

2012 Lincoln Laboratory debuts a new outreach program—a two-week summer residential program for high-school students. The program, Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers, focuses on radar technology. The project-based curriculum is based on a popular class offered during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) and taught by Laboratory technical staff. While the instructors adapted the IAP course to suit high-school students, they retained the challenging nature of the original class. The goal of the program is that students take away not only an understanding of radar systems but also the realization that engineering is about problem-solving and applying knowledge in innovative ways.