Mary Ellen Wiltrout

Mary Ellen Wiltrout

Director of Blended and Online Initiatives; Lecturer

Mary Ellen Wiltrout oversees the department's digital learning strategy with a group of two postdoctoral scholars and several graduate and undergraduate student contributors.






  • PhD, 2009, MIT
  • SB, 2004, Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University


Mary Ellen applies her teaching experience, PhD in biology, and learning sciences research knowledge to transform the biology curriculum at MIT in collaboration with the faculty through digital learning projects. The projects include blended learning experiences for MIT students and MOOCs that are shared with the world. She takes a learning engineering approach to the design process to focus on the learners and make data-informed decisions. She manages the development and execution of the projects and promotes the implementation of evidence-based teaching. The group also studies learner engagement and course design. Mary Ellen enjoys training and mentoring other teaching staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates in this discipline. The group created and managed two of ClassCentral's top 100 online courses of all time. Prior to returning to MIT, Mary Ellen taught at Harvard University.


  • COVID-19 Hero, School of Science, MIT, 2020
  • Silver Award in the Science of Learning category, Reimagine Education, 2019
  • Infinite Mile Award, Department of Biology, MIT, 2016


Giora Alexandron, Mary Ellen Wiltrout, Aviram Berg, and José A. Ruipérez-Valiente. Assessment that matters: balancing reliability and learner-centered pedagogy in MOOC assessment. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge (2020). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 512–517. doi: 10.1145/3375462.3375464

Gordon, Darcy, and Mary Ellen Wiltrout. "A Case Study in Applying the Learning Sciences to MOOC Design." (2019).

The Effect of Course Content Position on Student Attempts of Practice Problems in Introductory Biology. 2018 Learning With MOOCS (LWMOOCS). IEEE (2018).

Thornton, S, Riley, C,   Wiltrout, ME. Criteria for Video Engagement in a Biology MOOC. Proceedings of the Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning@Scale. doi: 10.1145/3051457.3054007

Thornton, S, Wiltrout, ME. Teaching MIT Students to Think Like Cell Biologists: A Visual Approach. EducationXpress (2015).

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