Anant Agarwal, Professor of EECS and CEO of edX, wins Yidan Prize

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Monday, September 24, 2018 - 2:00pm

edX CEO and EECS Professor Anant Agarwal. Photo courtesy of MIT Open Learning.

MIT Open Learning 

The Yidan Prize has named EECS professor and edX co-founder Anant Agarwal as one of two 2018 laureates.

The Yidan Prize judging panel, led by former Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, took more than six months to consider more than 1,000 nominations spanning 92 countries. The Yidan Prize consists of two awards: the Yidan Prize for Education Development, awarded to Agarwal for making education more accessible to people around the world via the edX online platform, and the Yidan Prize for Education Research, awarded  to Larry V. Hedges of Northwestern University for his groundbreaking statistical methods for meta-analysis.

Agarwal is the CEO of edX, the online learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard University in 2012. He taught the first MITx course on edX, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. Agarwal has been leading the organization’s rapid growth since its founding. EdX currently offers over 2,000 online courses from more than 130 leading institutions to more than 17 million people around the world.

MITx, MIT’s portfolio of massive online open courses (MOOCs) delivered through edX, has also continued to expand its offerings, launching the MicroMasters credential in 2015. The credential has now been adopted by over 20 edX partners who have launched 50 different MicroMasters programs.

“I am extremely honored to receive this incredible recognition on behalf of edX, our worldwide partners and learners, from Dr. Charles Chen Yidan and the Yidan Prize Foundation," Agarwal said. "I also want to thank MIT and Harvard, our founding partners, for their pivotal role in making edX the transformative force in education that it is today. Yidan’s mission to create a better world through education is at the heart of what edX strives to do. This award will help us fulfill our commitment to reimagine education and further our mission to expand access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere."

The Yidan Prize

Founded in 2016 by Charles Chen Yidan, the Yidan Prize aims to create a better world through education. The Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development will be awarded in Hong Kong on December 2018 by The Honorable Mrs. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Following an awards ceremony later this year, the laureates will be joined by about 350 practitioners, researchers, policymakers, business leaders, philanthropists, and global leaders in education to launch the 2018 edition of the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI), the first comprehensive index to evaluate inputs into education systems rather than outputs, such as test scores.

Dorothy K. Gordon, chair of UNESCO IFAP and head of the judging panel, commends Agarwal for his work on the MOOC  movement. “EdX gives people the tools to decide where to learn, how to learn, and what to learn," she said. "It brings education into the sharing economy, enabling access for people who were previously excluded from the traditional system of education because of financial, geographic, or social constraints. It is the ultimate disrupter with the ability to reach every corner of the world that is internet enabled, decentralizing and democratizing education.’’

Sanjay Sarma, MIT's Vice President for Open Learning and the Fred Fort Flowers (1941) and Daniel Fort Flowers (1941) Professor of Mechanical Engineering, praised edX for creating a platform “where learners from all over the world can access high-quality education and also for enabling MIT faculty and other edX university partners to rethink how digital technologies can enhance on-campus education by providing a platform that empowers researchers to advance the understanding of teaching through online learning. 

Agarwal has served as the director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He has co-founded several companies, including Tilera Corporation, which created the Tile multicore processor, and Virtual Machine Works.

He is an author of the textbook "Foundations of Analog and Digital Electronic Circuits" (Morgan Kaufman). Scientific American selected his work on organic computing as one of 10 World-Changing Ideas in 2011, and he was named in Forbes' list of top 15 education innovators in 2012.

Other awards and honors include the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize for Higher Education, which recognized his work in advancing the MOOC movement, the Padma Shri award from the President of India, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes Award for contributions to computer architecture, and MIT's Louis D. Smullin ('39)  Award and Burgess (1952) & Elizabeth Jamieson Prizes, both for excellence in teaching. He holds a Guinness World Record for the largest microphone array, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of both ACM and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.