Institutional Research   
Office of the Provost
MIT Office of Digital Learning
  MITx Data Request Checklist


Data from MITx courses are available for research, in a variety of forms, subject to compliance with student privacy regulations. The MIT Institutional Research group in the Office of the Provost coordinates the release of MITx data for research projects and will need to know details about the usage of data and purpose of the study in question. Contact with data requests.

The Final Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Privacy of Student Records, May 31, 2014, is available or your reference.

Identified data from MITx is subject to FERPA regulations, meaning appropriate training and project documentation are required. The list below summarizes these requirements.

MITx Data Request

1. Data Request
Researchers seeking access to Learner Data for research to improve teaching and curriculum or contribute to scholarship on teaching and learning shall send a request to the Director of Institutional Research. Researchers shall provide information on the following when requesting the release of MITx data:

  1. Researcher’s name, institution, department, address, contact information.
  2. Source of funding for research, indication of whether the proposal has undergone peer review and by whom, and documentation of approval by department head or equivalent.
  3. List of data sets requested, including whether the requested sets are De-Identified Data Sets or Identified Data Sets, and all collaborating researchers who will need access to the Learner Data (together, the “Study Group”).
  4. In the case of MIT researchers, documentation of approval or exemption by the MIT Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (“COUHES”).  More information can be found at
  5. In the case of non-MIT researchers, (1) documentation of approval or exemption by the institutional review board for human subjects research (“IRB”) at the researcher’s home institution; and (2) documentation of approval or exemption by COUHES or of its election to rely on determinations made by the home institution’s IRB.
  6. List of all involved personnel and documentation or certification of completion of the CITI human subjects training program  ( by all members of the Study Group. This requirement shall apply whether or not COUHES or a non-MIT researcher’s IRB has determined that the study is exempt from review or poses “minimal risk” to subjects.
  7. A description of the research proposed. This proposal is normally included in the application for IRB and COUHES approval.  Institutional Research shall consider the substance of the research proposal only as necessary to reach a determination that disclosure of the Learner Data to the researcher is consistent with applicable law.

2. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Data Use Agreement (DUA).
The Memorandum of Understanding (for MIT requests) and the Data Use Agreement (for external requests) are available by contacting These agreements bind data requesters to a set of standards set by the MIT faculty advisory committee on MITx data, and more broadly, MIT’s Office of the General Counsel. Key points include:

  • Recipients will not distribute data to individuals or organizations not specified on their DUA.
  • Recipients shall direct all requests for their data to Institutional Research, including requests by other researchers who wish to verify or reproduce their findings.
  • Recipients will not make public data that could be used to identify an individual.

3. Point of Contact for Data Transfer.
The pipeline for data transfers requires an individual capable of downloading and decrypting data sets. Current practices require a GPG key ( from one point of contact associated with the data request. The GPG key and transfer process will generally be tested before any official data transfer. A helpful tutorial on GPG encryption can be found here:

last updated August 2014

 MITx Research Statement


Learners who register for an MITx open online course agree to participate in research intended to improve MITx's offerings and to improve education generally. As a part of this research, learners may be experience variation in course material. MITx may share the information gathered during an MITx course, including personally identifiable information, with researchers both within and outside of MIT. All disclosures of information will be in compliance with applicable law and will be subject to an agreement to protect the data being disclosed. MITx may publicly share aggregated data that does not personally identify learners, and any research findings will also be presented in a way that does not identify individual learners. Please refer to the edX Privacy Policy for more information.