Leadership updates at Open Learning

January 26, 2022
Sanjay Sarma, Vice President for Open Learning, 2016–2022 |

To the members of the MIT community,

I am writing to share the news of two leadership transitions in Open Learning, effective February 1.

Krishna Rajagopal stepping down

First, Krishna Rajagopal, who served as dean for digital learning from 2017 through July 2021, and as acting vice president for open learning while I have been on sabbatical over the last six months, will return full time to his faculty role in the Physics Department. I’d like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Krishna for his nearly five years of selfless service and leadership at Open Learning. He has ushered our team through a period of remarkable growth and productivity, playing integral roles in Open Learning’s extended reach both at MIT and around the world. Among his many accomplishments, Krishna helped expand MIT’s MicroMasters Program offerings from two to five; conceived of and launched the next-generation platform for OpenCourseWare (OCW); developed the Open Learning Library; and led a consortium of 12 universities in developing standards and technologies for verifiable digital credentials that allow learners to own their credentials.

During the pandemic, when online learning and digital learning technologies were thrust to the forefront in unforeseen ways, Krishna’s leadership, partnership, and creative problem solving have been central to MIT’s capacity to continue to fulfill its mission. With colleagues in the Teaching & Learning Laboratory and Information Systems & Technology, he and the Residential Education team in Open Learning helped lead MIT’s rapid transition to remote teaching, launch the campus-wide Canvas learning management system, and provide support to faculty and instructors in transitioning to the new platform in the summer and fall of 2020. I am deeply grateful to him for all of it, including his willingness to lead Open Learning these past six months. Krishna will continue to remain involved with Open Learning as chair of the OCW Faculty Advisory Committee and as chair of the leadership council of the Digital Credentials Consortium.

Cynthia Breazeal appointed new dean for digital learning

Second, I am delighted to announce that Cynthia Breazeal PhD ’00, professor of media arts and sciences, head of the Personal Robots research group at the Media Lab, and senior associate dean in MIT Open Learning, will become dean for digital learning.

Cynthia brings to the deanship a remarkable combination of experience and expertise. She consistently displays an outstanding facility for leadership and collaboration, bringing together people, ideas, and technologies in creative and fruitful ways. Her pioneering research in artificial intelligence, social robotics, and human-computer interaction has led to such wide-ranging achievements as the launch of the cross-MIT initiative MIT RAISE, the Huggable teddy bear used to ease kids’ anxiety in hospitals, and the Jibo robot and research platform.

Over the past five years, her work has increasingly focused on inclusion and agency in the design, use, and education of digital technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI). She has led research teams that have created an AI curriculum for middle school, designing and field-testing AI learning companions for literacy, and engaged older adults in a design process for robotic companions. A scientific advisor for the Quest for Intelligence, Cynthia is an ambassador for women in STEM and a trailblazer in interdisciplinary research and community engagement.

As dean, Cynthia will leverage her experience in emerging digital technologies and business and strategic initiatives to lead Open Learning’s business and engagement units: xPRO, Bootcamps, and Horizon—three different approaches to developing and delivering courses, programs, training, and learning resources to professionals—as well work with the Center for Advanced Virtuality, MIT Integrated Learning Initiative, RAISE, and other strategic initiatives.

Please join me in congratulating Cynthia as she steps into her new position, ready to write the next chapter of growth and innovation at Open Learning.


Sanjay Sarma
Vice President for Open Learning