The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s leading role in online education for all is changing the way its own faculty approaches more traditional education.
For example, at the MIT Center for Real Estate, professors are rethinking the case study approach common in management training.
The change stems from an effort to introduce case studies into MIT’s âMassive Open Online Coursesâ, better known as MOOCs.
“Of course, the classic case study is a PDF file, about 15 to 20 pages,” says the director of the center, Albert Saiz. âIt’s very difficult to implement in an online course. The attention spans of students, especially younger ones, are getting shorter and shorter. “
Saiz therefore led a team that developed case studies designed to more easily grab the attention of a large audience.
âThe cases we produce are multimedia,â says Saiz. âThey use videos. They use sound. They use spreadsheets. They use photos. They also use games.â
Saiz says one of the goals of the presentations is to immerse students more deeply into business challenges.
âWe are really trying to immerse the student in the architectural and visual reality in which people do their business, so it was very important to us that the case was visual, that it was beautiful,â says Saiz.
âIn one of the cases,â he adds, âbased in Panama, one of our contractor’s tenants is actually someone who sings and composes music, so we have music from a people from that community who actually come from a background of poverty, and this individual was a member of a gang. “
âI had grown up in Miami, and it kind of experienced a revitalization while I was living there,â says developer KC Hardin in an interview included in Immersive Materials. (Here is a link to a beta version of the Panama case, for desktop / laptop, and best viewed in the Chrome browser.)
Hardin wanted to make sure that gentrification did not drive out the elders who contribute to the character of the neighborhood.
âThis period of revitalization created a lot of great things, but it also moved a lot of people and tended towards this cultural homogenization, where things got very commercial,â Hardin said. âAnything that attracted you to this place would eventually be destroyed. “
The students learn that Hardin was determined not to make this mistake in Panama.
The case studies include games.
âIn one of them, for example, you have a building and you have to choose what the combination of uses is in that building,â says Saiz. âYou have a residential part and a commercial part, and you can choose to have the all high income, all low income residential part. will be friendly. “
MIT sees these immersive case studies as a whole new tool.
“It’s between an academic article, a website, and a documentary film, and we don’t see anything like it has ever been created before,” says Danya Sherman, director of the MIT Case Study Initiative.
Sherman says the teams have toured Panama, Mexico City, Florida and Malaysia.
âWe really want the students to feel on the ground with us, investigating with us what is going on in a particular location and what led to these results and asking ourselves questions, like, who don’t we questioned that maybe we should have? ” Sherman said.
The Malaysia case study is part of Professor Lawrence Susskind’s open online course on Socially Responsible Development.
Susskind teaches another MOOC, on entrepreneurial negotiation. In this course, students from around the world see each other on an MIT platform and then compare themselves to other teams. Susskind expects this to become the first online course MIT students can take to earn credits.
âWe escaped, in college, standing behind a desk and reading notes for too long,â Susskind said. “You can’t do that. And what’s interesting is that once you’ve done it for the MOOC, you feel like a jerk when you go back to normal class and you don’t have nothing set up to complement what you’re doing in front of the class, because people will ask for it. “
MIT pioneered MOOCs, allowing people around the world to take MIT courses. Now, MOOCs are transforming courses on the MIT campus.