New MIT President Leads in Online Ed

By Danielle Dreilinger

Rafael Reif
L. Rafael Reif on Greater Boston.

May 16, 2012
BOSTON — The new president of MIT has been out in front on the university's online education initiatives.
On May 16, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology named provost L. Rafael Reif as its new leader. Reif, a native of Venezuela, joined the MIT faculty in 1980. He has served as provost since August 2005.

In April, Reif won a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award for his work on MITx, the university's online learning intitiative. (A fellow honoree: Justin Bieber.)
From there, the university partnered with Harvard to launch edX, a free platform available to all. Reif discussed the project on Greater Boston on May 2, calling it a "new, phenomenal technological tool."
Each institution committed $30 million to edX, and Reif certainly saw a potential return on investment. "There are so many revenue stream possibilities. Just the amount of information that one can learn," he said. "I can see a significant interest from employers worldwide. … The opportunity to monetize this is huge."

That said, "the goal is not to make money with this venture. The goal is to do a better job at education. The goal is to learn about online learning," he said.
The initiative also aimed to transform the on-campus experience. "Right now we offer the content in the classroom. For many subjects in the near future, the content will be delivered partly in the classroom ... and partly online," he said. "The online version, what we call the X version, is the one we will offer to the world."
Departing MIT president Susan Hockfield praised Reif's role in online learning and beyond. "I and the global MIT community have benefited immensely not only from his brilliant leadership of major initiatives, such as our international engagements and the MITx and edX launches, but also from the vital role he has played in stewarding the Institute’s finances and capital planning during a time of global financial uncertainty," she said in a statement.
Reif starts the new job on July 2.

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