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Alumni, Student living, teaching methodology, academic year, and finances (all that nicely packaged for your eyes only ;-) )

1) Alumni participation:
Alumni are divided in at least two camps, the Devout, and those who really don t care about MIT. Those in the second category are far more numerous and more diverse a group, and for that reason their view of the future of education may be critical to MIT's continued success.

I have several times advocated for simple initiatives to entice the involvement of these folks, including:
_ an "interactive" world map on the alumni website on which any person with access to the Infinite Connection can zoom down to any level and find a database of alumni or associates who have agreed to be contacted by MIT visitors. Think of it as Couchsurfing mixed with Facebook for an exclusive bunch of geeks: visitors could ask for suggestions on any subject (tours, restaurants, conferences, ...) and get to know fellow alums from a different culture, all of which can only benefit MIT's positioning within the globalization of education.
_ perks for volunteers (Alumni Officers, Educational Counselors, ...), such as free membership and access to any MIT Club around the world (again enticing cross-cultural exchanges), and free access to MIT facilities when they visit (Physical Education center; Sailing Pavilion).

2) Residence: as Class Secretary, my impression is that 25~40% of those who contribute Class Notes refer to their affiliation with a frat. This seems to justify the endurance of the system. I lived off campus and was very happy to do so, despite the commute. My housemates were from very different environments and this was more educational to me than if I'd lived on campus (note that I was a transfer student from a community college and about ten years older than my classmates, which may skew my values).

3) Teaching methods: As for the classroom of the future, students are again divided in two camps, those who learn from books, and those who learn from teachers. I don't believe that either format should be excluded, but a new selection criteria may be justified in identifying which students will learn better from which of the two lesson formats. But then again, I'm in my 50's and totally low-tech, so what do I know... However, classroom attendance is not to be neglected as a valuable tool for teaching us structure and discipline, i.e. getting to class on time every day (wishful thinking, I know...).

4) France is right now changing the entire concept of summer school vacation; maybe there's something in there for us too, i.e. do we really need a 2-3 months recess, or would we better learn by having several more short breaks during the year, and perhaps two IAP periods during which to do internships?

5) affordability?! The US system is crazy!!! In my mind, there is no possible way of justifying the cost of education associated with any US university or Institute. Education is our survival, it has to be entirely supported by society as an investment in humankind's future. That was one of the most important messages in Open Course Ware when we launched it in 2000. REINVENT!

Thanks for doing this, and congrats to Raf Reif for supporting it!

Nicolai Cauchy

A New Financial Model, Financial models and pricing structures, Education & Facilities, Educational experiences, free education, universal access, public funding, alumni input