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  • So let me add my words of welcome.

  • I'm sure that you have been welcomed more times than you can count.

  • But I must welcome you to Harvard, and your thinking

  • and your experiencing of what a Harvard life might be like.

  • But what I'd like to do is perhaps help us think a little bit differently

  • about the kinds of learning experiences that

  • is possible in a setting like Harvard, and also, in any setting

  • that one might imagine.

  • So you've probably heard a lot already about Harvard courses, concentrations,

  • things that you will experience here.

  • But what I would argue is that, without question,

  • while what you experience here will be absolutely

  • critical to your own learning, we now live in a world where what you learn

  • can indeed be something that can be a major contribution to what someone

  • else learns thousands of miles away from you.

  • So I'm a cell biologist.

  • But for a number of years, I've been very interested in this challenge

  • of personalized learning at scale.

  • And what is the role of a university like Harvard in doing this?

  • And how can this sort of challenge really change

  • how you think about your own time here at an institution like Harvard?

  • So as some of you may know, in 2012, 2011,

  • there was a lot of discussion around what we called MOOCs--

  • massive open online courses.

  • I suspect that some of you have even taken

  • some massive open online courses, perhaps from Harvard

  • as well, from HarvardX.

  • But one of the critical aspects of this is that Harvard partnered with MIT

  • to develop a platform called edX.

  • The notion was that we really wanted to share broadly

  • with the world learning content from top universities around the world,

  • but to make it much more accessible.

  • But what did we do?

  • We made courses.

  • Things that were 10 weeks long.

  • 12 weeks long.

  • 8 weeks long.

  • 6 weeks long.

  • So we started off with a traditional notion of how you learn,

  • which is through a course.

  • So fast forward to now.

  • After I founded and built HarvardX, what we now realize

  • is that, in fact, courses are incredibly important.

  • Don't get me wrong.

  • You will have amazing courses here.

  • But there are other ways in which you can learn that give you more agency--

  • the ability to personalize in ways that perhaps we didn't have before.

  • So if we want to make personalized learning more available,

  • how do we do this?

  • What platform do we have?

  • Well, one of the critical aspects of edX compared to any other course platform

  • online is that we're open-source.

  • We're free.

  • So what that means is that there's something called Open edX.

  • And you see a bunch of numbers and words there.

  • Open edX and edX together now accounts for roughly 60 million learners

  • have engaged with the platform around the world.

  • There are more than 1,300 organizations, ranging from universities like Harvard

  • to Amnesty International, the World Economic Forum, Microsoft, Google.

  • A whole variety of organizations use the platform.

  • All countries have been touched and have access to the platform.

  • And so what this means is that we are currently

  • the largest open-source learning platform in the world.

  • So you're probably thinking, well, I'm trying

  • to figure out how I feel about Harvard.

  • I'm looking inside.

  • Well, what I'm going to try to urge you to do

  • is to, at the same time that you're looking inside, look outside as well,

  • and what you might be able to do in that regard.

  • So what we have done is that we are now building the next generation of the edX

  • platform--

  • once again free, once again open-source--

  • in a project that I'm hearing called LabXchange.

  • And what makes it next generation is that if you

  • think about the amount of learning content out there--

  • and I know that you have seen a lot of things--

  • literally tens of millions of individual assets have been created.

  • Probably hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.

  • And what you have are a multitude of courses

  • that have videos, that have text, infographics, simulations, animations,

  • all of those things.

  • But all of them are locked in courses.

  • And so you need to decide, OK, if this is what I want,

  • I need to jump in, somehow find it, take what I want, and then jump back out.

  • Or, do I have time to spend 12 weeks doing something online?

  • What LabXchange has done is completely re-architect the core of the edX

  • platform so that now everything is combined into a common repository where

  • the course is no longer the unit size, but any learning

  • asset can be searched for, found, and utilized for your own purposes.

  • So that imagine this remarkable library, and a library where you now

  • get to pick what you want from it.

  • From a course at Harvard, a course at MIT, a course at Stanford,

  • or some kind of open educational resource from Amnesty International,

  • you can now bring it all together and put it together

  • in a sequence of your own choosing.

  • You can then add your own stuff to it.

  • So let's say you're interested in studying the impact of changing water

  • quality on a particular organism that's important to you,

  • or that's local to you.

  • You can take your own research, your own data that you might have gathered,

  • and you can add this to what we call a pathway.

  • Now, just putting stuff together doesn't tell a story.

  • We all know that learning depends on narrative,

  • and being able to tell a story.

  • So what the Xchange does is allow you to add sort of interstitial material

  • that lets you tell that story.

  • So this allows you to personalize learning experiences for yourself.

  • But this also allows you to personalize learning experiences for others.

  • And this is where the collective learning at scale occurs.

  • We are accustomed to sharing the products of our learning at best.

  • We share the outcome of what we have learned.

  • You want to make something, you want to do something, you put things together,

  • you figure it out--

  • I know you've all done this--

  • and you end up with something at the end.

  • It might be a physical product, an intellectual idea, a proposal-- any

  • of those things.

  • And if you're lucky, maybe you can share that with the world.

  • But how often do we get to share how we got there?

  • Learning is not just the product.

  • Learning is also the process.

  • So for the first time, what we'll be able to do

  • is take what you have brought together, take the narrative

  • that you have created to do something, and now you can share that.

  • We all stand on the shoulders of others, and we all hope--

  • I think-- that others will stand on our shoulders

  • some day to do something great.

  • Now, there's an opportunity to stand on how

  • others have learned to do something.

  • So it's both the process as well as what the outcome might be.

  • So what this allows us to do now for the first time is give a platform where

  • individuals that are interested in doing something--

  • to make a difference, to build challenges,

  • to address challenges in some way--

  • can now figure out what materials they need, utilize them, and share

  • not just the outcome of their ideas, but what they learned.

  • And that these pathways, as we call them,

  • are something that an individual can share,

  • a high school teacher can share with her class,

  • a college professor can share with his or her class.

  • It is now a situation where we have opened up and cracked open

  • the process of getting to where we need to go.

  • So the world is a better place now in many ways

  • than it was 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 10 years ago.

  • But challenges remain, as I don't need to tell you.

  • This is an opportunity for us to connect individuals across the world

  • to allow them to address challenges.

  • So right now, 50 undergraduates are working

  • with me building LabXchange, building content for LabXchange with another 30

  • graduate students.

  • This is one of those places where we are not only

  • thinking of students as recipients, but you're

  • agents in building the possibilities that we

  • hope to make available to the world.

  • And the notion is that, in time, every single student that

  • does a fantastic summer research project in biology, in physics, in visual art,

  • in government, in economics will have the opportunity

  • to put together how they got there, and to share what they created.

  • All tagged, all searchable, all findable so that someone can stand

  • on your shoulders when the time comes.

  • So these nodes, as we sometimes call them, are really important.

  • How do we connect these kinds of things?

  • And so one thing we've done is to try to create an example of what

  • is an innovation node that will take advantage of the platform

  • to share ideas and proposals for a better world with the world?

  • So there is a summer program that I run in Paris called The Biopolis.

  • It's focused on biology and social innovation.

  • And I won't go into all the details of what it does,

  • but what it does in part, in its simplest form,

  • is bring Harvard students and French students

  • from Sciences Po and the University of Paris

  • to use Paris as a laboratory to really interrogate ways in which life

  • in an urban setting can be better.

  • The first time I suggested this program, colleagues teased me and said,

  • you just want to spend a bunch of weeks in Paris.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • I'm like, well, you try having 48 students with you.

  • That's not exactly a vacation-- even though it

  • is remarkably rewarding for everyone involved, I think.

  • But what is important here is that Paris is one of-- in some ways-- the most

  • contradictory cities.

  • It is a museum city.

  • It is beautiful.

  • It's a tourist destination.

  • It is also profoundly unequal.

  • It is in turmoil.

  • And I think now we understand, with the yellow vest movement,

  • just how in turmoil it is.

  • So it presents a setting that in some ways

  • is so contradictory and so complex.

  • What better laboratory do we have for students to work on making lives better

  • in a particular place?

  • The version of this in Boston will be launching quite soon

  • with both cities being together.

  • So we have done this now for four years.

  • There are close to 50 design plans.

  • And many of these plans-- so there are at least eight start-ups

  • have come from this.

  • And a multitude of awards for the proposals have happened.

  • One I will talk briefly about is BubbleBox.

  • BubbleBox was developed by a team of Harvard students and Sciences Po

  • students.

  • And what BubbleBox does is ask the question, in a city like Paris where

  • refugee encampments are not allowed, where they are all ad hoc,

  • where they have to move from place to place because they are frequently

  • displaced from where they set their tents up, how

  • do you deal with issues of hygiene, showering, laundry, all of that?

  • So the team came up with an idea to take a shipping container,

  • convert it into a truck that's entirely self-contained--

  • water tanks, solar panels, a shower loop, laundry.

  • All of it is contained in this box that is self-powered.

  • And instead of thinking about building a center where the refugees go,

  • this will go where the need is greatest.

  • How do you fund this?

  • You fund it by actually renting BubbleBox

  • to large music concerts in Europe and elsewhere.

  • So the government of Jordan is building BubbleBox now,

  • and the team won the Paris Talent 2024 international competition

  • for innovation.

  • So they won more than 30,000 euros to actually build this.

  • So BubbleBox is in process.

  • This is the kind of thing where you come here to make a difference,

  • to do something like this.

  • You have a way of connecting with others to make this happen,

  • and we really want to facilitate that for you as much as possible.

  • So the hope is that you will contribute to a growing core of resources

  • to really make the world a better place.

  • That The Biopolis focuses, for example, on the Sustainable Development Goals

  • from the United Nations, particularly good health and well-being, education

  • and partnerships.

  • But if you haven't looked at the SDGs before, I recommend you do,

  • because there are 17 of them that articulate key challenges

  • that the world needs to face.

  • We have a decade to meet these challenges.

  • The goal from the UN is to meet them by 2030 as best as we can.

  • And our hope is that more and more Harvard students

  • can partner with others around the world to build new ideas,

  • share what they're doing, and bring many more concerned minds into the dialogue

  • and into the build of what we need to make the world a better place.

  • So in the past, quite often, both individuals and organizations

  • competed and got ahead based on building the best silo.

  • If you had the best knowledge silo, you're more competitive.

  • You'll get ahead.

  • That is your advantage.

  • Those days are over.

  • We no longer live in a world of knowledge silos.