MIT Open Learning
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MIT Open Learning

Anjali Sastry, J-WEL’s new Faculty Director, looks to J-WEL’s future

Vijay Kumar, J-WEL’s founding Executive Director, moves to a senior advisory role at MIT Open Learning

Headshots of Anjali Sastry and Vijay Kumar with the J-WEL logo behind them

As J-WEL welcomes Dr. Anjali Sastry as its new Faculty Director and Associate Dean for Open Learning and Dr. Vijay Kumar, J-WEL’s founding Executive Director and former Associate Dean for Open Learning, moves into a new role as senior advisor to MIT’s Vice President for Open Learning, Dr. Sastry looked to the future–and reflected on the experience, relationships, and knowledge that J-WEL builds on.

In 2017, J-WEL set out to revolutionize the effectiveness and reach of education for learners everywhere. Inspired by a team of experienced educational innovators drawn by Dr. Kumar from across MIT, along with the Institute’s first Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma, MIT President Rafael Reif, and the visionary support of MIT alumnus Mohammed Jameel, J-WEL developed a unique approach to bring MIT-led innovations, ideas, and research to collaborators everywhere who are seeking to improve teaching and learning.

“The work started by Dr. Kumar and the J-WEL team is more important than ever, as the world responds to the reverberations of the global pandemic,” says Sastry. “J-WEL looks to the promise of technological and scientific progress to increase the reach and quality of education while addressing the uneven landscape of opportunities for learners at all life stages by working directly with educators, academic and corporate leaders, and their stakeholders.”

Today, J-WEL builds on its deep collaboration with partners in India, Columbia, Japan, Belize, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Brazil, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Uruguay, among others, to bring better learning to millions of people across the world. With universities in Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Latvia, Tanzania, Peru and more now joining the effort, national and regional scale innovations in education are underway. Projects targeting K-12 innovations bring J-WEL expertise to schools in Latin America, the US, and elsewhere, while exciting new workforce learning engagements include a recently-launched global collaboration to bring opportunities to adults through corporate and institutional partners worldwide.

As always, the J-WEL team scouts the MIT ecosystem for research, practices, and guidance to share with members and orchestrate new collaborations built on MIT research and experience. J-WEL also learns from our partners, bringing together ideas and efforts from across the globe. Going forward, a new thread of work will spur local innovations anchored in the communities that member organizations serve,” Sastry says. J-WEL will continue to invest in new ways to study, distill, and share the lessons learned from the educators who are the essence of J-WEL. In particular, J-WEL wants to invest in the translation and implementation of ideas that work in one educational setting to understand how best to transfer and scale them elsewhere.

We are glad to be on this journey with you.

Dr. Sastry’s Brief Bio:

Dr. Anjali Sastry is Faculty Director of J-WEL and Associate Dean for Open Learning. She brings a history of leadership and thinking about the interface of academia and society, particularly where learners are involved. Her longstanding interest in education has led to teaching innovations for entrepreneurs, undergraduates, graduate students, and executives, close engagement with J-WEL since its founding, and enthusiastic support for MIT Open Learning. A three-time graduate of MIT, Dr. Sastry draws on her grounding in system dynamics, organizational theory, and action research to investigate organizational designs for delivering needed services and goods in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere, including via extensive field work. A Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Sastry shares her findings on new ways to reach the underserved through classes that range from accessible MITx offerings co-developed with Solve to MIT Sloan’s “Breakthrough Ventures” course on effective business models in frontier markets, which she has offered for over a decade.

Dr. Sastry’s publications span academic and conference papers and books and include Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner (HBS Press) a guide to orchestrating learning in the workplace. She serves on the Board of Directors of TomorrowNow.org and educational non-profit ResearchILD. A former advisor in residence to Mumbai-based Tata Trusts, founding advisor to shift7, member of the global nonprofit Board at Management Sciences for Health and Boston’s The Learning Project, Lecturer in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and Faculty Advisor to the MIT Legatum Center for Entrepreneurship and Development, she works with collaborators everywhere to find and support ideas that offer the promise of bringing the best of MIT to many.

A celebration of Dr. Vijay Kumar’s leadership

Vijay Kumar, Founding Executive Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab and Associate Dean for Open Learning, stepped down from his role on June 30, 2022. In 26 years of dedicated service to MIT, Vijay’s enormous and wide-ranging contributions shaped educational innovation through technology at the Institute and elsewhere.

A personal note from Vijay to J-WEL’s collaborators conveys the depth of his impact. In his own words:

“It has been my privilege and pleasure to lead J-WEL as its founding executive director, helping to shape its concept and effort and working with a wonderful team of colleagues in advancing its mission. Most significantly, J-WEL has given me an unparalleled opportunity to collaborate with you all in imagining and implementing innovative solutions for educational transformation at your institutions and regions. I will continue my appointment at Open Learning, albeit at fewer hours, as a Senior Advisor to MIT’s Vice President for Open Learning.

I take great satisfaction and pride that through the tremendous efforts of the J-WEL team, the core staff, the faculty who have advised and participated in its programs, the constant support of Community Jameel and most significantly your collaboration, we have come from our modest beginnings five years ago, to becoming a visible and viable platform for educational change globally.

We look forward to this new chapter as J-WEL charts new paths to strengthen and extend its role and impact. Thank you, as always, for your continued commitment and engagement with J-WEL as we co-construct new preferred futures for education.”

Vijay now serves as senior advisor to the Vice President for Open Learning and continues to share his wisdom and experience with J-WEL through a variety of engagements. Building on Vijay’s legacy, Dr. Anjali Sastry has been named the new head of J-WEL.

All that Vijay Kumar brought to J-WEL

Vijay joined MIT in June of 1996 as Director of Academic Computing, providing leadership for infrastructure and services to support MIT education. He launched and led the Stellar project, creating a Learning Management System that served MIT until 2020; helped launch Academic Media Production Services (AMPS); and played a pivotal role in launching MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW). He also launched the Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) with support from the Mellon Foundation. MIT formally recognized Vijay’s strategic guidance and initiative in 1999 when he was named Assistant Provost and Director of Academic Computing.

After over a decade in the Provost’s Office, Vijay moved to serve as Senior Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education. There, he founded the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) to help promote innovative uses of technology in teaching and learning. Among the initiatives he helped launch through his work were Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) classrooms, and iLabs which enables students to design and run experiments from distant lab equipment. During that time, Vijay co-edited “Opening Up Education” (MIT Press), a book sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, and also helped launch the MIT-Haiti Initiative.

In 2013, Vijay joined the Office of Digital Learning (since renamed MIT Open Learning) where his contributions reached many and shaped the course of flagship educational innovation efforts. When J-WEL was launched in 2017, Vijay was named Executive Director. Under Vijay’s leadership J-WEL has grown into a flourishing community of teaching and learning researchers and practitioners in pK-12, Higher Education, and Workforce Learning at 45 member organizations in 20 countries.

In addition to his immense impact at MIT, Vijay has contributed his thought leadership worldwide. Among his many advisory engagements, Vijay has served as a strategic advisor to the World Health Organization, as an Advisor for Digital Futures for the Smithsonian, as honorary advisor to the India National Knowledge Commission, and as Trustee of EDC. He has been awarded an Honorary Professorship by Tianjin Open University and as the Exxon Mobil Chair for Technology Enabled Learning at the University of Qatar.

Both of these stories originally published at https://jwel.mit.edu/.

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