Grimson expects capital campaign to stay quiet for several more months

MIT’s fundraising campaign, expected to bring in between $2 and $6 billion dollars over the next several years, will probably not enter its public phase for “several months,” according to an email from Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80, who recently stepped down as chancellor to lead the campaign.

The launch will follow Harvard’s announcement last year that it would aim for a total of $6.5 billion in its campaign, topping Stanford’s record $6.2 billion, raised in a five-year effort that ended in 2011. MIT will not attempt to join its bigger and better endowed peers in that horse race, according to David A. Woodruff, the chief operating officer of resource development.

But he did say that MIT’s campaign will be more ambitious than its previous one during Charles M. Vest’s presidency, which raised $2 billion and ended in 2004.

MIT has an endowment of about $11 billion and an annual budget of about $3 billion.

Even during the quiet phase, officials are busy traveling, seeking to secure gifts and pledges from alumni and other donors in order to build momentum before the launch. The specific goals of the campaign will be announced in its public phase.

Pass rates on edX are at 6 percent, but that’s okay, researchers say

Online education researchers called course certification rates “misleading and counterproductive” in a report released Tuesday that summarized data gathered in 17 open online courses from MIT and Harvard.

It costs nothing to register, so completion rates cannot be compared to those in traditional classes, they contend. And certification is not always the goal for these students — or the instructors, many of whom encouraged students to participate only to the extent that they found the experience useful.

Besides, even with an average certification rate of 6 percent, the sheer number of people participating meant that the impact of these courses was still massive, they said.

Indeed, only one certificate was awarded per 126 registrants in Harvard’s CS50x class (Introduction to Computer Science), but that still meant 1439 received certificates.

Most who dropped out did so early: typically, half of the registrants in a class stopped visiting the course website after the first week, and a third of those who remained would leave after the second week. On average, a tenth of the registrants in a course stuck around long enough to view half of the chapters.

The report only covers the first 17 Harvard and MIT courses on edX. The online education platform was started by those two universities in 2012, the year edX and other websites, including Coursera, drew significant media attention to massive open online courses and spurred discussion about the future of education.

The work leading to Tuesday’s report was led by Isaac Chuang, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, and Andrew Ho, an associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

The courses included in the report included an introduction to electricity and magnetism, a course on the economics of poverty around the world, and another about heroes in ancient Greek literature.

In addition to certification rates, the researchers also examined the demographics of edX students. Men who had bachelor’s degrees and were 26 or older comprised 31 percent of the enrollees, outnumbering all the women together. The best-represented countries among students on edX are the U.S., India, the U.K., Brazil, and Canada.

Many involved in MOOCs say that they not only provide an enormous public good but also represent an opportunity for research in education, given the unprecedented amounts of data that can be collected.

—Leon Lin