Teaching Online to Improve Residential Education

In this section, Professor Tom Kochan describes how residential MBA students in the MIT Sloan School of Management served as Community Teaching Assistants in the MOOC, 15.662x Shaping the Future of Work, and the ways in which this interaction between residential and online participants enriched on campus learning.

15.662x Shaping the Future of Work was developed from my existing residential MBA course at MIT Sloan, 15.662 Managing Sustainable Businesses for People and Profits. As I was working on the MOOC, it occurred to me: Why not bring the MBA students together with online participants? I knew it would benefit our MBA students to meet and engage with people in the global workforce and vice versa. So we designed the MOOC in such way that the MBA students served as Community Teaching Assistants. They helped facilitate online discussions by seeding conversations with their own experiences and by introducing new resources. They also occasionally responded to students’ questions and helped facilitate a negotiations exercise.

MBA students loved the fact that they could engage with people in the workforce.

— Tom Kochan

This collaboration worked out really well. MBA students loved the fact that they could engage with people in the workforce and learn how they thought about labor-related issues. One MBA student, after a few weeks of serving as a Community Teaching Assistant, said, “You know, people out there in the workforce don't think the way we do about these issues.” I remember thinking that if we accomplished nothing else, we were already successful: We had helped one student learn that the people she would be leading would hold perspectives different from hers on the issues impacting their careers. 

So, all in all, having the MBA students engage with the global MOOC participants was an important learning experience for our residential students. In a very practical way, it realized MIT President, Rafael Reif’s, vision that we should use what we learn through our teaching in the online world to improve the quality of education here on campus. I think it’s worked quite well in that respect.