Sanjay Sarma, Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, has been named, effective immediately, MIT’S first director of digital learning.
In announcing the appointment via e-mail, MIT president L. Rafael Reif said Sarma would “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,” Reif added, Sarma 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.”
MIT indicated that Sarma would try to assess how edX, the nonprofit massive open online courses program started by MIT and Harvard, and other similar programs can augment traditional teaching at the institute.
“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,” Reif said.
“I know that MIT’s faculty and students bring a rich and diverse set of views to the question: How can new media make education more fun, efficient and effective?” Sarma said in a statement. “I look forward to learning from the community, and to helping implement the ideas that will emerge,” the Indian American academic added.
Sarma will report jointly to Chancellor W. Eric Grimson and Provost Chris Kaiser. Isaac Chuang, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, will serve as associate director of digital learning. MIT’s OpenCourseWare office will report to Sarma.
A member of MIT’s mechanical engineering faculty since 1996, Sarma has won multiple teaching awards at MIT, 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.
Sarma will step down from his post as the director of the MIT/SUTD Collaboration Office, which fosters MIT's ongoing partnership with the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
Sarma has developed or co-developed two new courses in the mechanical engineering department at MIT. He received a bachelor’s in technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, a master’s degree in engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
His research has focused on RFID, sensors, and computer-aided design and manufacturing. Sarma is also the co-founder and former chairman of research at MIT’s Auto-ID Center.