book open with the sky


In this episode, VP for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma discusses Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn (2020).



Sanjay Sarma is not only a professor of mechanical engineering; he’s also Vice President for Open Learning at MIT, where he oversees innovative efforts to reimagine education, and he is coauthor (with Luke Yoquinto) of the recent book Grasp, which explores the nature of learning. In this episode, Professor Sarma discusses the differences between nominal learning, in which you memorize a fact or procedure but soon forget it, and real learning, in which you can effectively apply the skills and concepts you’ve previously mastered.

When the format of education is consistent with what science tells us about how our brains store and retrieve information, Sarma says, real learning can be optimized. He argues that well-designed platforms for online learning are a vital resource for people worldwide who lack access to in-person education—like a glass of water to someone in a desert. But he also sees online learning as an indispensable tool for in-person education, allowing innovations that help to maximize the value of students’ and instructors’ time together, and he is optimistic about the potential value of online learning credentials as a pathway toward in-person degrees.

Relevant Resources:

MIT OpenCourseWare

The OCW Educator Portal

Sanjay Sarma & Luke Yoquinto’s xTalk on Grasp

Professor Sarma’s course on OCW

Professor Sarma’s faculty page

Professor Sarma at MIT Open Learning

Professor Sarma’s book Grasp

Micromasters programs from MITx

Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions

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Sarah Hansen, host and producer

Brett Paci, producer

Dave Lishansky, producer

Scriptwriting assistance from Nidhi Shastri

Show notes by Peter Chipman