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Even if distance learning and other models take the place of many traditional lecture classes, there is one learning model that is particularly effective in the residential-university setting of MIT: Project-based, team-oriented learning. This is a learning model that MIT students particularly enjoy and benefit from, and it transmits a number of useful skills: project management, communication within and outside a team, delegation, design/fabrication and team-building, to name a few. Many of these are skills that our alumni have reported as being particularly valuable to them in their careers.
Certainly some collaboration can be done at long distance, but there are settings in which face-to-face contact is crucial, and in the residential environment of MIT students can (and do!) work on collaborative projects at all times of day, and in many kinds of locations. A number of project-based programs and classes already exist at MIT--these include Terrascope, D-Lab, 1.101/1.102, 2.00B, 2.009, 3.003, 6.07, 16.00, and many others.
As EdX and similar programs grow, the Institute will need, in parallel, to find ways to build on the particular strengths of a residential learning community. Perhaps an evolution towards stronger emphasis on such project-based and team-oriented experiences is one path forward for the Institute.