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The edX model has a lot of promise for the future, but so far it does not completely replace an on-campus MIT education. I see at least three crucial areas where the on-campus approach still holds a major advantage:
1) Student-to-student interactions, both for learning and for bonding into a community (i.e. having fun!)
2) Student-to-faculty interactions, to support individualized learning and create connections into the field
3) Alternative modes of learning that go beyond weekly lecture/problem sets, such as projects, labs and presentations
If edX is to serve as a basis for the future of MIT, we need solutions that address these areas in a cost-effective way that maintains the MIT brand.
Create edX satellite campuses in major cities. For example, to begin with, MIT could buy or build a building in San Francisco. This building would contain classroom spaces, group work spaces, lab spaces, and even some dorms. Initially, a new campus would only offer 1 or 2 majors, so the building would only need facilities to support those majors.
Students could either live in the dorms at this campus, rent apartments or even live at home with family. They would take most of their classes online via edX, but at least one class each semester (probably a lab or project class) would be "on campus" at this satellite campus building. The campus would also host study sessions, office hours, and even fun social activities to promote bonding and friendships. All this would help with point #1 above.
These students would also be encouraged to come to the main campus in Cambridge 1-2 times per year, perhaps for IAP or a similar summer session, or even "conference" style events. This way the students could meet face-to-face with the professors from their edX classes, work on projects in teams with students from other campuses, and feel more connection to the MIT community. You could also encourage these students to spend 1-2 semesters of their college time at the main campus. Additionally, the satellite campus would be home to recitation instructors who could hold office hours and recitations to provide support at the appropriate level for each student (and hey, it would provide jobs for recent MIT grads). All this would address point #2 above.
Finally, because the campus would only focus on a small number of majors, the building could have the appropriate facilities to support projects, labs and other learning approaches specific to that major, but without the immense cost of maintaining the huge variety of lab spaces that the main campus has. Furthermore, students could present the results of their work during the semester at a "conference" week during a visit to the main campus, giving undergrads the chance to practice presenting, networking and learning from others' research. This would address point #3 above.
---Financial model and admissions---
The satellite campuses would require application and would maintain the same standard of admission as the main campus. This is crucial to protect the brand of an MIT education. However, the satellite campuses could be a MUCH less expensive option. The tuition would not have to cover housing, sports,arts and activity facilities. With online lectures, the costs associated with teaching would be much lower. And the flexibility to watch lectures on your own schedule would allow students to work concurrently, easing budget concerns as well.
---Benefits to MIT---
The primary benefit would be lowering the cost of education to students. By providing a lower cost option for the elite college experience, MIT could attract a much larger share of the brightest students in the country.
Satellite campuses also serve as a new revenue source for MIT, as the average cost to educate a student would be vastly reduced. MIT would essentially be monetizing the edX experience, creating a new revenue stream.
There are certainly challenges to this approach, and I'm sure there are a lot of details I haven't considered. Please leave comments and suggestions.