An Indian-American professor has been appointed dean for digital learning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Ivy League university announced July 26.
Krishna Rajagopal, the William A.M. Burden Professor of Physics and former chair of the MIT faculty, will take on the new position as dean for digital learning, effective Sept. 1.
Rajagopal’s mandate in the new position is to empower MIT faculty to use digital technologies to enhance their teaching methods. He is charged with building and strengthening connections between academic departments and the Office of Vice President for Open Learning, to facilitate broad-based engagement and bottom-up change, including global, MIT said in a press release.
Within the Office of the Vice President for Open Learning, Residential Education, MITx, OpenCourseWare, and the Digital Learning Lab will report to Rajagopal under the leadership of Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning, who made the announcement. Rajagopal will work with Sarma and Senior Associate Dean of Digital Learning Isaac Chuang on the office’s strategy and organization. As a member of Academic Council, Rajagopal will provide advice and perspectives to MIT President L. Rafael Reif and the senior administration.
“I am excited about this new challenge, as I will be helping MIT faculty members take their passions for teaching and learning to new levels in ways that can have long-lasting impact across MIT and around the world,” Rajagopal is quoted saying in the press release. “Our digital learning efforts already reach thousands of students in MIT classrooms and millions of learners around the world. What makes this an exciting time for education is that as these technologies, as well as research on how people learn, evolve, they are transforming how we teach today, and will do so in ways that we cannot yet see and must invent.”
“Krishna combines his stellar research career with a passion for improving teaching and learning and a remarkable ability to integrate diverse points of views into a unifying vision,” Sarma said. “In a time of significant changes in education, I am confident that Krishna will offer great guidance for our open learning initiatives. He will work to maintain and enhance MIT’s position as a leader in providing access to high-quality education around the world, and he will continue to improve teaching at MIT.”
When he was chair of the MIT faculty, Rajagopal is credited with helping bring out an in-depth study of the role of algorithmic reasoning and computational thinking in the context of the education of MIT undergraduates. He was also responsible for the charging the Faculty Policy Committee Sub-Committee with bringing out recommendations and for subsequent implementation of many them; he was also instrumental in building a new faculty governance website; and leading efforts in the creation of MIT’s new Master of Applied Science (MASc) degree.
The university lauded Rajagopal’s dedication to his students through his years in the MIT faculty since 1997, during which he has produced a significant body of research in theoretical physics focused largely on how quarks — ordinarily confined within protons and neutrons — behave in extraordinary conditions. His work links nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, astrophysics, and string theory.
Rajagopal is the author of about 100 papers, mentored more than two dozen PhD students and postdocs, and received several honors. Rajagopal, a product of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, says he much appreciates the formative educational influences that shaped his own experience. He completed his PhD at Princeton University in 1993. After stints as a junior fellow at Harvard University and a Fairchild Fellow at Caltech he joined the MIT faculty in 1997.