Building MITx MOOCs: A Surprising Path to Faculty Professional Development

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session will tell the story of MITx, the MOOC division of MIT Open Learning, and how many participating MIT faculty began to identify the making of MITx MOOCS as an important professional development opportunity. With the help of the MITx Staff, faculty learned the following:

  • Researched the effectiveness of their assessment activites;
  • Interacted with students in forums;
  • And received support with copyright, media production and the technical aspects of the edX platform.

Sponsored By


Lindsey Weeramuni is the Manager of Intellectual Property for MIT's Office of Digital Learning, overseeing and executing copyright policy for MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx. MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT's course content available under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike license. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity, accessible with no registration required ( MITx creates open online courses (MOOCs) that are offered to learners worldwide on the edX platform ( Weeramuni is a librarian and was the project director for the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare (, a document produced by a committee of practitioners of OpenCourseWare in the U.S.

Extended Abstract

This session will tell the story of MITx, the massive open online course (MOOC) division of MIT Open Learning. The mission and goals of MITx are three-fold:

  1. Provide free, scalable, highly rigorous, cutting edge, and intellectually challenging courses to academically talented learners worldwide via MITx
  2. In collaboration with Residential MITx, support and direct the use of digital learning tools and techniques on the MIT campus
  3. Assess, promote, and disseminate best practices in emerging digital and scalable learning environments

Since the offering of a MOOC entitled “Circuits and Electronics” on edX in 2012, MITx has

  • 366 course runs (new and rerun)
  • 3.1 million unique users
  • 6.7 million cumulative course registrations
  • 229,000 certificates awarded
  • Learners from almost every country in the world (75% outside of the US)

In the midst of all this activity, a surprising thing happened: participating MIT faculty began to identify the making of MITx MOOCS as an important professional development opportunity.

This presentation will tell the story of how faculty use MOOC development via the MITx support model to improve their teaching practices and resources. They were surprised to learn the different work required to move from classroom lecture to the online space. They were pleased to realize that it resulted in continuous improvement of their instructor experience. They were grateful to be able to organize their content in an innovative way. Some created entirely new courses from scratch just for their MOOC in order to try exploring novel materials. In what was an innovation for her, one professor took the blended learning approach and used her MOOC to “flip” her classes, assigning her video lectures while the students did labs during class time. Whatever the reason, academic departments see this as an important part of their instructors’ professional development strategy and the MITx support team’s work is the same for all of them.

Attendees of this session will learn how MITx team members support faculty throughout the process. In addition to a team of subject matter experts hand-picked by the faculty, they have the full support of the MITx production support team. It is staffed by a group of 19 people in the Office of Digital Learning within MIT Open Learning. They are the following:

  • project managers and educational technologists who ensure quality course design,
  • an Accessibility Manager to incorporate universal design (UDL) from start to finish,
  • a media team that enables the creation of the faculty’s vision of professional educational video assets that enhance learner engagement,
  • copyright experts who train and support each course team on how to clear permissions, adjudicate fair use claims, and search for open license substitutions.

The beneficiaries of this support model are the duo of residential MIT students and learners from around the globe. Many MIT students use these courses to bolster their understanding of classes in which they are enrolled. Learners outside of MIT send feedback saying things like a course helped them with an exam, or they’re just a “perpetual self-learner!”

MITx solicits proposals that leverage the edX platform for global and residential audiences in support of the digital learning strategies of MIT schools and departments. One of the example questions in the Call for Proposals is “What research-based learning and teaching practices will you experiment with in this project and how will student learning be measured?” This affords the faculty to assess the effectiveness of their instruction with the full support of the MITx team to enhance the course construction.

The session will conclude with a discussion about how we move systematically into the building of student facing learning experiences to research, develop and measure faculty members’ approaches to teaching. A question and answer period will close the session.