Last updated: 19.05.12

Online learning champion appointed as MIT president

An e-learning champion has been selected as the 17th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Leo Reif, who is known as L Rafael Reif, was elected to the position following a vote by the MIT Corporation and will assume his leadership role on July 2nd.

The 61-year-old has been chief academic officer of the US university since 2005 and in this capacity he had an important part to play in the development of the institute's MITx online learning initiative.

Mr Reif led the five-year e-learning project, which was launched last December.

It provides MIT courses to students across the globe at no cost through an open-source virtual learning environment.

The initial offering of MITx - which is titled 'Circuits and Electronics' - has so far enrolled over 120,000 individuals from a number of nations.

He also had an important role in the formation of the recently-announced partnership between the academic centre and Harvard University, which is called edX and intends to bring online training to students around the world and enhance residential education provisions.

MIT's entrance into this significant $60 million collaborative project was similarly led by Mr Reif.

The new president has a vision of analysing how education can be enhanced through online learning, MIT claimed.

He has been a member of the university's faculty since 1980 and is now the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science's Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technology.

This appointee succeeds Susan Hockfield, who has revealed she was retiring from the post after serving as MIT's leader for more than seven years.

Commenting on his appointment as MIT president, Mr Reif said: "Educating students is central to our mission, so I believe MIT should focus, institute-wide, on innovations in teaching and learning, to further enrich the powerful MIT formula of 'Mind and Hand'."

"Let me conclude with the obvious recognition that there is a great deal to do and that the sooner we start doing, the more we can get done," he added.