MIT Programmable Education, Google and Natural Language Processing: A Study in Retro Ideas
Harvard University’s computer science program seeks to deliver breakthrough breakthroughs. The aim is to foster self-directed research in software design and programming, one of which is called engagement.
One of the major tools developed by the Harvards Distinguished Professor of computer science, Lars Erik Nilsson, enables staff members and students to build on and collaborate on research.
With MIT’s organized system it took us a long time to develop this power. So I decided to teach students how to put this power together and show them that you can have a strong network and follow your research path without a lot of complicated tools, which were already broken by middle-class American students. — Lars Erik Nilsson, computer science professor at Harvard University
“In one of my classes, one of the students wrote a research project,” Nilsson tells Tech Insider. “From there, we had to produce it in just three weeks.” By the end of that three-week period, Nilsson’s students had a working prototype.
“When you think about it,” Nilsson says, “it was unheard of in computers to even have a design specification before a program was written, let alone coordinate it, project it out, and try to design.” The MIT Distributed Systems Programmable Education course, built on the MIT technology, enabled students to construct a living research network.
There were so many students and so many different tasks to accomplish on an expert level. So one of the things we did was we made the programmers self-organizing by mapping it out [by matching students and teachers]. A nice example was a culture club. … A team of students got together to do research on cultural anthropology with each other. So they realized they had to have a handbook, with a shared calendar, so they could make sure they always met together in a proper period of time.
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“We started sharing that activity wirelessly. It automatically shared in the system, all that was functioning within the program, so that’s what gave it legs,” he adds.
Nilsson says the connectivity capabilities of the software may be to blame for the sudden popularity of the MIT’s Distributed Systems Programmable Education course, which enrolled 700 students in the fall of 2015, surpassing all expectations and nearly reaching one full semester of classes by next spring. Nilsson even invited MIT President Susan Hockfield to an event at Harvard following the final exam.
“We have 50-60 students per week in this course now. It is working, and it needs to work because Harvard is becoming a competitive place. We want to win, and it helps us do that,” he says.
Learn more about an MIT Distributed Systems Programmable Education course here