Thomas Kochan

George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management

A global lab for learning

The Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab brings together leading practitioners to improve instruction for students everywhere.

By: Eric Bender

Built on MIT’s pioneering educational research and digital learning platforms such as OpenCourseWare and MITx, the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) is a global incubator for educational innovation delivered sustainably and at large scale.

J-WEL was launched in May 2017 by MIT and Community Jameel, which was established and is chaired by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78. The program’s goals are high: “The global collaborative effort will help educators, universities, governments, and companies revolutionize the effectiveness and reach of education, and aims to help prepare people everywhere for a labor market radically altered by technological progress, globalization, and the pursuit of higher living standards around the world.”

“We are trying to see how we can help develop the capabilities and capacity to provide customized, personalized learning experiences at scale in a sustainable manner,” says M.S. Vijay Kumar, executive director of J-WEL and associate dean for open learning at MIT. “With digital learning platforms, we can actually provide these kinds of flexible learning opportunities for individuals.”

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Going beyond purely digital platforms, J-WEL places a special focus on best practices in learning for populations with little or no access to effective educational resources, among them the millions of displaced people now spread across the planet.

One recent J-WEL grant, for example, went to the MIT Future Heritage Lab, led by associate professor of architecture Azra Akšamija, which develops art and design projects for communities under threat. The funding will help in setting up a satellite hub in a Jordanian refugee camp, in partnership with local artists, designers, and academics.

Overall, J-WEL works through three collaboratives that cover pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade education, higher education, and workplace learning. Each collaborative provides access to MIT educational resources, workshops, and research partnerships, along with participation in J-WEL Week conferences that gather communities of leading educators worldwide for intense professional interactions.

“These three collaboratives are not disconnected entities but parts of an extended value chain,” Kumar says. “As educators, we all face the challenge of making what our students are learning relevant to future workplace needs. With J-WEL, we are starting to see that some of our research and practice cuts across all three of these educational sectors.”

J-WEL is designed to welcome collaborating institutions around the world. To date, the program has enlisted 15 members.

Read more about J-WEL collaboratives: