MIT Jameel World Education Lab grants inaugural Frontiers in Digital Learning awards

MIT Jameel World Education Lab grants inaugural Frontiers in Digital Learning awards

The new grant program supports MIT researchers developing cutting-edge digital learning innovations.
The grantees of the first Frontiers in Digital Learning awards. From left: John Harrold, Jessica Sandland, and Mary Ellen Wiltrout. Image: MIT Jameel World Education Lab
MIT Open Learning

By Carolyn Tiernan

The Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) at MIT Open Learning awarded the first Frontiers in Digital Learning awards, a new grant program that curates, activates, and shares insights from MIT Open Learning Digital Learning Lab (DLL) researchers with the world. Selected proposals build on the DLL experience with digital learning innovations at MIT by identifying a transferable, academically-grounded, and field-tested idea that is recommended for further exploration, extension, or testing in a new setting at one of J-WEL’s member institutions.

The DLL grantees are John Harrold, MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) instructor and DLL fellow; Jessica Sandland, DMSE principal lecturer and DLL scientist; and Mary Ellen Wiltrout, MIT Department of Biology director of online and blended learning initiatives, lecturer, and DLL scientist. Their transferable ideas include broadening the scope and application of the xMinor online undergraduate minor certificate program; broadening the impact of the DLL by creating an associate member program; creating experiential lab components for MITx courses; and studying and applying evidence-based approaches to increase engagement in online courses.

“We have long wanted to bring the incredibly varied and innovative work of the MIT Digital Learning Lab to many. The Frontiers in Digital Learning awards will pave the way, and, at the same time, directly support awardees,” said Anjali Sastry, faculty director for J-WEL. “Our goal is to strengthen knowledge of the design, implementation, applicability, and impact of digital learning innovation at MIT and across the world. Instructors and leaders in J-WEL’s network are eager to learn about field-tested insights and to launch their own tests and experimentation. We’re particularly excited about the opportunity to amplify and extend the work of these DLL grantees by facilitating collaborative implementation projects with a number of member institutions in the fall. Such small-scale efforts could reveal new insights about challenges and opportunities in digital learning that could apply everywhere — including on the MIT campus.”

As early as October 2024, grantees may be awarded additional funding for follow-up work that builds upon their initial proposals. Awardees will work directly with one or more J-WEL members to explore a practical and academically-grounded implementation of an idea aligned with their original paper.

“Members of the Digital Learning Lab are committed to advancing digital learning by drawing on their advanced knowledge of their disciplines,” said Christopher Capozzola, senior associate dean for MIT Open Learning. “By strengthening ties between the DLL, J-WEL, and its member institutions, the DLL will expand its visibility and impact. And most importantly, learners around the world will benefit.”

The Digital Learning Lab is a joint program between MIT Open Learning and MIT’s academic departments, where lab experts learn, collaborate, and innovate with digital learning on campus and beyond. The lab is composed of digital learning scientists and digital learning fellows who play a critical role in advancing digital learning initiatives across MIT.

The Frontiers in Digital Learning Awards build on J-WEL’s Education Innovation grants, its flagship grant program for MIT faculty and principal investigators addressing teaching and learning across the student lifecycle, from pK-12 to higher education to workforce learning. To date, J-WEL has awarded more than $5.9 million across all of its grant programs.

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