Faculty Profile: Sanjay Sarma
Course Director: MIT Professional Education Short Programs: Radical Innovation
When Sanjay Sarma was appointed MIT’s Director of Digital Learning in November, it was the culmination of a life’s work as a self-described disruptor.
“I'm a disruptor in both my academic and entrepreneurial life,” Sarma says. “I and my students, we are all disruptors. Our business is to disrupt industry in the interest in doing technology more efficiently.” For example, as a founder of the MIT Auto-ID Center, he and colleagues pioneered RFID technologies and standards that have radically changed the way products are tracked worldwide.
Now Sarma is in charge of figuring out how the edX online-learning platform; MITx, the Institute’s course offerings on that platform; and other online tools can invigorate MIT’s residential education. He has long been involved in interactive education. More than a decade ago, he and colleagues introduced computer-based teaching tools to promote active learning and intuition in the classroom.
He is also investigating digital learning opportunities for global learners. “We do a lot on campus with hands-on learning. We give student kits and ask them to design robots. When they learn online, we take that away. What if we could make the kits available to students for a good price? So they can get it on Amazon and build their own experiments as our students here build their own robots. There is proof of experience—Lego Mindstorm, a product that came out of MIT.”
Lifelong Learning through MIT Professional Education
“Lifelong education is the new normal,” says Sarma. “Our education system today is based on outdated state—that you finish your undergraduate degree and maybe do a graduate degree and your learning from then on is on the job by reading articles. In a rapidly changing world, that does not fly any more. So MIT Professional Education is the way for professionals around the world to remain conversant about the cutting edge and be close to it.”
Sarma is bringing the cutting edge to worldwide learners through his MIT Professional Education, Short Program titled Radical Innovation. Besides its regular summer offering, he taught special two-day sessions in Rome and Milan in February and others are scheduled for Singapore and Brazil in late 2013. The goal of these global courses is to enable business leaders to understand the disruptive nature of innovation in startups and academic research and to harness that creative energy for their industries. Companies, both large and small, could encourage skunkworks operations with the freedom to “fast fail” on new ideas, which could ultimately lead to substantial winners and economic success, he says. And he draws from hands-on experience at his own startup, OATSystems, a software company.
About Professor Sarma
BTech, 1989, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
In addition to many teaching awards at MIT, Sarma has received industry recognition including the New England Business and Technology Award and the MIT Global Indus Award. In 2003, he was selected for Business Week's eBiz 25 and Fast Company magazine's Fast Fifty. He recently received the RFID Journal's Special Achievement Award. He serves on the Board of Governors for EPCglobal and the City of Boston's Complete Streets Advisory Group.
Learn more about Professor Sarma:
Radical Innovation course resonates with Italian industry professionals: Sanjay Sarma urges Italian companies to capitalize on the country's innovative heritage to launch skunkworks efforts — MIT News article, March 7, 2013
Institute-Wide Task Force aims to sketch the MIT education of the future — MIT News article featuring Sanjay Sarma, February 6, 2013
Sanjay Sarma appointed as MIT's first director of digital learning — MIT News article, November 20, 2012