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New MIT Lab Intends to Deliver Education Innovation to the World

Digital learning pioneer Massachusetts Institute of Technology has just expanded its mission of delivering education worldwide. The creator of OpenCourseware, open course provider MITx and MicroMasters credentials has launched a lab for "research, policy, pedagogy and practice" dedicated to developing new ways of delivering education to learners in developing countries, including an emphasis on reaching underserved populations such as women and girls, and displaced persons.

The Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) will operate within MIT's open education and learning initiatives and be led by M.S. Vijay Kumar, the institution's associate dean of digital learning. The lab will have three "special interest groups" — pre-K-12, higher education and workplace learning — with individual faculty leads directing each one. Faculty will receive J-WEL grants for research related to the given initiative. The program will also tap into existing educational resources at MIT, including the Integrated Learning Initiative and Office of Digital Learning, to gain an understanding about what works best in the education of children, university students and workers.

Along the way, J-WEL hopes to build a "collaborative" made up of schools, governments, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropists and industry to target its work for specific segments and regions. Members of the collaborative will gain access to MIT training, workshops and certification programs.

The effort is being sparked by a longtime supporter of MIT, Fady Mohammed Jameel, head of Abdul Latif Jameel International, a conglomerate of companies with its headquarters in Saudi Arabia and international interests in automotive, financial services, land and real estate, energy, media and advertising and consumer products. Jameel, a graduate of MIT, also serves as president of Community Jameel International, which runs multiple programs for social change and already supports two centers founded at MIT. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), established in 2003, seeks to reduce poverty through policy that's developed through scientific evidence. The Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS), begun in 2014, seeks solutions to food and water scarcity in a world beset with change from global warming. All of the centers carry the name of Jameel's father, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, who founded ALJ International in 1945.

"Education and learning are fundamental to a strong society and economy — they promote employment and create increased opportunity for all," said Jameel in a prepared statement. "While there has been progress made in improving education, there is always more that can be done. Enabling individuals to do their very best and reach their full potential, whatever their background, is a key priority for Community Jameel and the world. That is exactly why we are establishing the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab with MIT."

To learn more, watch the video below or visit the J-WEL site

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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