IDEAS Boston 2013: Nish Sonwalkar - Academic, Scientist, and Musician: Dr. Sonwalkar presented "Changing the Interface of Education with Brain-wave Adaptive Learning," at the Ideas Boston invited presentations. He was introduced and interviewed by Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR program "On point." The Ideas Boston is event organized by University of Massachusetts, Boston. Republished with permission from UMB at sonwalkar7 channel.

An Education Technology Event -- Sponsored by Software Circle & EdTech Group Future of MOOCs: Prospects and Pitfalls -- MIT Perspective

About the Event: The Educational Technology field is exploding with innovation, and in response the MIT Enterprise Forum is hosting a four-part series throughout the academic year. The "Circuits and Electronics" MOOC by Anant Agarwal of MITx, deployed in 2010, was a milestone in the MOOC movement. The MOOC movement, and its mission to provide and expand open education opportunities in the world, has captured the imagination of the education and technology community worldwide. How and where this innovation will lead the next generation of learners is a subject ripe for debate and this event is your chance to join in and ask questions of the MIT and edX leaders. All three of our featured experts sit at the epicenter of the development of MOOCs: Professor Sanjay Sarma heads MIT's new Office of Digital Learning and is committed to infusing digital education within MIT; Kathy Pugh has joined forces with edX to accelerate the innovation and research around MOOCs; and Nish Sonwalkar has a long standing record of innovation in the adaptive learning interfaces and now serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the research journal dedicated to MOOCs.

Are MOOCS just another business model for companies who create them to make money? Can they truly be designed to meet the needs of students and adult learners who work and need to learn during nontraditional hours? What about credits toward degrees and certificates? Are resistant universities going to have to follow kicking and screaming or will MOOCS simply fade away?


  • Dr. Daphne Koller- Stanford Professor, founder of Coursera
  • Dr. Nishikant Sonwalkar, Sc. D., MIT Editor-in Chief, MOOCs FORUM
  • Dr. Rob Robinson
  • Moderator: Claudio Sanchez, education correspondent, NPR
  • NPR Organizer: Danyell Irby

In this video, Dr. Nish Sonwalkar is presenting the evolution of education technology leading to the development of MOOCs. He also then suggests that the future of MOOCs is in the creation of Adaptive MOOCs for higher completion and learning outcome.

Prof. Anant Agarwal presents the edX project and some early results. He suggests MOOCs as an opportunity for educational experiments.

Contact: Dr. Nish Sonwalkar (

Dr. Sonwalkar will provide an overview of the theory of synaptic learning and its' application in providing creative learning environment. Synaptic learning, by providing multiple perspectives for learning new concepts, encourages creative thinking. It has been observed that the creative learning environments can lead to much better learning gains than conventional one-size-fits-all learning.

Dr. Sonwalkar will point at the recent neuron-feedback research on brain-waves patterns that encourages creative thinking and future directions in the emerging innovations in the field of Brain-Machine Interface (BMI). He will also discuss the impact of Massively Open Online Courses on the education in context of MITx and Edx projects.

In this keynote presentation, Dr. Nish Sonwalkar, makes an urgent call for action to offer Brain-based Adaptive Learning to provide individualized learning for students with disabilities. The keynote address was delivered at the one day symposium organized by Liberated Learning Consortium and Ross Center of Disability at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

The digital revolution with the development of World Wide Web and Mobile systems has given rise to ubiquitous access of information to both the digital immigrant and digital native population. However, the information overload has caused confusion on how best to utilize digital revolution for the benefit of learning in general and distance learning in particular. On the other side of the equation, noninvasive techniques for the study of neurophysiology of brain, such as, PET, fMRI, and CT-scans have provided a wealth of information on the activities of neurons that lead to the formation of learning networks in the human brain. The combination of digital technology with the new frameworks of brain-based adaptive learning and brain-machine interface are the new frontiers for enabling high performance, efficient, effective and engaging distance education.

Dr. Sonwalkar, an authority in the field of brain-based learning will provide an overview of the theory of adaptive learning and propose a pedagogical framework to assimilate the new meaningful liberated distance learning paradigm.

This is the video recording of keynote speech delivered by Dr. Nish Sonwalkar (Sc.D., MIT) at the Research :Leaders Conference organized by NSU on July 20, 2011.

The creative thinking is often considered a realm of poets, singers, artists, designers and mathematician, such as, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky and Gandhi. Recent neurological research shows that creativity is an acquired skill that can be developed by a systematic divergent learning approach. The creative thinking is an essential and often necessary aspect of successful graduate research.

The investigations conducted by brain and cognitive science using the advanced neurological mapping methods, such as, Electroencephalogram (EEG), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) provide a wealth of new information to shed light on the process that helps us learn about creative thinking. Recent studies indicate that the creativity is not confined to right brain regions and is dispersed on both left and right side of the brain and is strongly connected with the emotional centers of the human brain.