You can change the world!

Submit your idea to MIT Solve

Maybe it’s an idea that’s been rattling around your head or maybe you’re about to have an epiphany that can dramatically improve the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.

Now is your chance to make your idea become a reality.

Solve, an initiative of MIT, has launched three new challenges on its open innovation platform and is seeking submissions which could be pitched at the United Nations on March 7th.

Aimed at developing and implementing solutions to major global issues, the current Solve challenges seek innovative solutions that address: 

  • Refugee Education: How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24? Click here to view the challenge.
  • Carbon Contributions: How can individuals and corporations manage and reduce their carbon contributions? Click here to view the challenge.
  • Chronic Diseases: How can we help people prevent, detect and manage chronic diseases, especially in resources-limited settings? Click here to view the challenge.

Challenges are active and open for applications until January 20, 2017. Anyone with innovative ideas and a passion for finding affordable, far-reaching, and implementable solutions is encouraged to apply.

You can find out more information about MIT Solve at

Learn, Cure, Fuel, Make: MIT launches “Solve” (MIT News)

Graphic of four colored squares with the words Learn, Cure, Fuel, Make.

The four pilliars of Solve. (Source: MIT Solve website.)

MIT launches “Solve” to galvanize action on solving the world’s great challenges
Leaders to gather for keystone event at MIT next October
Technology Review | December 12, 2014

MIT will convene technologists, philanthropists, business leaders, policymakers, and social-change agents Oct. 5-8, 2015, for the launch of “Solve,” an initiative to galvanize these leaders to drive progress on complex, important global challenges that MIT has singled out as urgent and ripe for progress. Curated by distinguished members of the MIT community, this highly collaborative event will take place at Kresge Auditorium and at various labs, classrooms, and facilities across the MIT campus.

Solve will organize challenges into four content pillars, identified by MIT as strategic targets for interdisciplinary research, problem solving, and collaboration:

  • Learn, curated by Anant Agarwal, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and CEO of edX, will focus on access to education, and digital and distance learning.
  • Cure, curated by Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor at MIT and an affiliate of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, will examine the affordability of care, and advanced diagnostics and therapies.
  • Fuel, curated by Angela Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT, will focus on environmental sustainability, food and water security, and renewable energy.
  • Make, curated by Rodney Brooks, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and founder, chairman, and chief technology officer of Rethink Robotics, will delve into manufacturing, global infrastructure, and the future of work.

The curators will assemble challenge teams to address specific global issues in the developing and developed worlds, with short- and long-term goals for tackling pressing issues where serious progress is possible…

Read the full article.

We certainly agree that learning is one key to solving the world’s most pressing problems, and look forward to this initiative.

Rethinking Low Completion Rates in MOOCs (Chronicle of Higher Education)

It’s common knowledge that many MOOC students drop out partway through their course. But some of these learners might consider their “incomplete” to be a complete success. A new study of completion rates among HarvardX MOOCs suggests that student intentions be incorporated into evaluations of MOOC effectiveness.

Rethinking Low Completion Rates in MOOCs
by Steve Kolowich

Completion rates in free online courses are low—to critics, laughably so. But exactly how low are they? The answer might be a matter of interpretation.

Let’s say 79,500 people sign up for a handful of massive open online courses offered by Harvard University. About 44,500 of those people say they are there to complete the course and earn a certificate. About 23,000 say they are there either to browse the course materials or to complete a few assignments. The remaining 12,000 say they haven’t decided what their goals are.

At the end of the course, 10,500 people earn a certificate of completion. So what was the completion rate?

It depends on whether you think intent matters.

Those numbers are from a new study by Justin Reich, a research fellow at Harvard. Noticing how critics had seized on the low completion rates in MOOCs, Mr. Reich decided to complicate things by figuring out whether the people who were “failing” to complete the courses had actually been trying to complete them in the first place.

Read the full article here.

The MOOC where everybody learned (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Banner image for 8.MechCx.

It’s an ongoing debate. Can MOOCs help level the educational playing field? Will they be accessible to students of all backgrounds, or are there limits to their effectiveness with some types of students?

A study just published on a recent MITx introductory physics MOOC weighs in on this question. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog reports:

The MOOC Where Everybody Learned
by Steve Kolowich – September 16, 2014

Some MOOC skeptics believe that the only students fit to learn in massive open online courses are those who are already well educated. Without coaching and the support system of a traditional program, the thinking goes, ill-prepared students will not learn a thing.

Not so, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The researchers analyzed data from a physics course that MIT offered on the edX platform in the summer of 2013. They found that students who had spent significant time on the course showed evidence of learning no matter what their educational background.

“There was no evidence that cohorts with low initial ability learned less than the other cohorts,” wrote the researchers in a paper published this month by The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

Not only that, but the MOOC students learned at a similar rate as did MIT students who had taken the on-campus version of a similar course. That finding surprised the researchers because the on-campus MIT students studied together in small groups for four hours every week and had regular access to their professors and other campus resources. Read more >

The MOOC in this study, 8.MReVx Mechanics Review, is currently running again. And a new version specifically for high school students, 8.MechCx AP® Physics C: Mechanics is open for registration and begins on January 15, 2015.

Flipped Classroom May Help Weaker STEM Students (US News)

We’ve written about the flipped classroom on Open Matters before, and it’s exciting to see new data on the learning style. US News reports “the bottom third of students made the greatest improvements in a flipped engineering program.” The article cites studies being done in university level engineering courses:

“If you’re just going to get up there and do a traditional lecture, that’s going to work for some people, but if that’s the only way they can get the information, the people it doesn’t work for are not really getting anything productive out of the class,” says Randy Weinstein, associate dean for academic affairs for Villanova University’s College of Engineering. “When they’re going to be able to focus on your material is not always going to be Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 a.m.”

At Villanova, Weinstein helped lead a pilot program for flipping engineering courses. New data from the program given to U.S. News shows the bottom third of students’ grades were more than 10 percent higher than in a traditional classroom (the difference between a D+ and a C) and more than 3 percent higher for the class as a whole (moving from a C+ to a B-). Continue reading on US News.

One of our motivations for creating OCW courses with audio and video lectures is to support MIT faculty who want to flip their classroom, and to create a resource for educators around the world to use as they design their curriculum. Let us know if you’ve used OCW videos to flip your classroom!

What 6.9 million clicks tell us about how to fix online education (MIT News)

A few months ago, we learned what online learners want from MOOC videos. Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have followed up this research with a MOOC video platform called LectureScape, “a ‘YouTube for MOOCs’ that seeks to reinvent how online learners watch videos.” MIT News reports:

LectureScape uses data on viewing behavior — particularly the “interaction peaks” that correspond to points of interest or confusion — to present MOOC videos in a way that’s more intuitive, dynamic, and effective:

  • A timeline shows which parts other users have most frequently watched
  • An interactive transcript lets users enter keywords to find relevant segments
  • A mechanism automatically creates word clouds and summaries of individual sections, as well as the whole presentation
  • Content from popular slides automatically appears in the following slide, as users will likely want to refer back to that information

In summary, viewers can consume videos more efficiently, skipping specific sections or repeating trickier ones, without having to slog through the whole video. Continue reading on MIT News…

They’ve also posted a video which demonstrates how LectureScape works:

Who does what in a massive open online course? (ACM)

MIT’s first MOOC, 6.002x Circuits & Electronics, had 154,000 people sign up. But how did these learners use the online course? Researchers analyzed the wealth of data these students generated to learn “who does what” in a MOOC. Here are their key findings:

  • Data collected in MOOCS provides insight into student behavior, from weekly e-textbook reading habits to context-dependent use of learning resources when solving problems.

  • In 6.002x, 76% of the participants were browsers who collectively accounted for only 8% of time spent in the course, whereas the 7% of certificate-earning participants averaged 100 hours each and collectively accounted for 60% of total time.

  • Students spent the most time per week interacting with lecture videos and homework, followed by discussion forums and online laboratories; however, interactions with the videos and lecture questions were distinctly bimodal, with half the certificate earners accessing less than half of these resources.

Read the entire article here. See the archived 6.002x here, or look at the current listing of MITx courses here.