Educational Mapping at MIT

By: Karen Willcox

Digital maps have changed our lives. Whether we’re searching for directions or nearby restaurants, analyzing traffic, or just browsing the map to get the lay of the land, digital maps provide us with rich visual, informative, interactive experiences. Navigating the modern educational landscape shares many parallels: Learners are often trying to get somewhere (e.g., a job, a certification, or a set of marketable skills). They may want to know what topics or skills are “nearby”. They may want to know what kind of roadblocks to expect along the way. It’s hard to imagine navigating the physical world without a map, yet everyday learners navigate the educational world mapless. This seminar describes how I, an aerospace engineering professor, fell into the world of educational research, innovation and policy. I discuss MIT projects that are developing edtech that enables educational mapping to support analytics and data-driven decisions. I also describe some of the larger initiatives at MIT and across the US that aim to chart a vibrant, sustainable future for higher education.

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Karen E Willcox is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also Co-Director of the MIT Center for Computational Engineering and formerly the Associate Head of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Before joining the faculty at MIT, she worked at Boeing Phantom Works with the Blended-Wing-Body aircraft design group. Her research at MIT targets “data to decisions” in aerospace systems, with a particular focus on design of future aircraft. In addition to her research pursuits, Willcox is active in education innovation. She is currently co-Chair of the MIT Online Education Policy Initiative and Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Board. In 2013-2014, she served as co-Chair of the Institute wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education. She is a recognized innovator in the U.S. education landscape, where she is a 2015 recipient of the First in the World Department of Education grant.

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