Indian American appointed first director of MIT digital learning

An Indian American professor of mechanical engineering and IIT alumni has been appointed as the first director of digital learning of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In his new capacity, Sanjay Sarma, the Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will work closely with the Institute's faculty, staff and students to assess how new models of online instruction might become integral parts of MIT students' on-campus education.

A 1989 IIT alumni, he has long worked to develop new instructional techniques for mechanical engineering students.

"As director of digital learning, Professor Sarma will serve as a convener and synthesiser," Reif wrote in his letter to the MIT community.

The announcement of his appointment was made by MIT's President L Rafael Reif.

"He will explore, collect and build on the wisdom and experience of individuals and groups across our community, and lead us in shaping a coherent vision.

"On the subject of blending online learning and residential education, he will also serve as experimenter-in- chief, assessing what is working best in MIT's current educational model, what we could do more effectively and what kind of changes we should pursue, from the way course content is delivered to the way we shape the campus itself," Reif said.

"Throughout, he will work hand in hand with our edX team, led by Professor Anant Agarwal, and our edX partner universities, especially in interpreting the huge flow of edX data about how people learn," he said in a statement.

A member of the Institute's mechanical engineering faculty since 1996, Sarma's work in the classroom has earned him multiple MIT awards for excellence in teaching, including the Den Hertog Teaching Excellence Award, in 2001, and the Joseph H Keenan Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, in 2002.

He was named a MacVicar Fellow in 2008, an MIT honour reflecting outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation.

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