The MIT Online Education Policy Initiative studies the impacts of online learning on the higher education community from a policy perspective.

Read the report.


To explore teaching pedagogy and efficacy, institutional business models, and global educational engagement strategies and to present a cohesive report on these issues that can be used by policymakers and leaders in education;
To engage in the public discourse surrounding online learning and to encourage productive discussion;
To influence policy and policymakers to create a welcoming environment for educational innovation.
If policymakers and educational leaders can understand and anticipate those impacts, they can create a welcoming environment for educational innovation – an environment in which the use of online learning to improve the quality of education, strengthen colleges and universities, and improve access to higher educational resources for all who want to learn will flourish.


In April 2013, MIT President Rafael Reif established an Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education. The charge was to capture an integrated understanding of how digital learning is changing teaching and learning on our campus. The Task Force was also asked to consider impacts beyond MIT and to envision how future technologies and models can provide innovative solutions to problems in higher education.

On August 4, 2014, MIT’s Task Force on the Future of MIT Education released its final report, which offered sixteen recommendations that would enable MIT to capitalize on the opportunities of the new world of online education. Emerging from comprehensive research and conversations with the greater MIT community, the report lays out strategies and associated costs that would allow MIT to reinvent education for future generations of learners both on its campus and beyond.

MIT’s Online Education Policy Initiative formally began work immediately after the report’s release.

The Online Education Policy Initiative will build on the observations of the Task Force, extending them beyond MIT and sharing analyses of our ongoing experiments with a national audience of policymakers and thought leaders in higher education. This is a timely and important step. Congress has begun work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The Obama Administration has launched a major initiative to improve college affordability and performance, which will include regulatory changes. Online learning is receiving significant attention in both these efforts, with some seeing it as a panacea and others as a threat at a time when the cost of education and the accountability of some institutions have become hot-button issues.

Since the implications of online pedagogy have not yet been firmly established, policy makers, especially, would benefit from a clear exposition of the advantages, disadvantages and possibilities associated with various online learning modalities. Both legislators and executive branch officials must weigh how to enable technology-driven innovation while maintaining adequate institutional oversight and protections for students. The Online Education Policy Initiative’s reports and briefings will help frame the national conversation that should take place around those decisions.


  • August 2014: Online Education Policy Initiative formally began.
  • April 2015: Online Education Policy Initiative website launches.
  • November 2015: Arrange stakeholder meetings with policymakers and institutions in Washington DC to discuss the preliminary findings and recommendations; these conversations will inform the final report.
  • April 2016: Release a report introducing key findings and recommendations.