Carnegie Mellon to examine what works in online courses

Carnegie Mellon University has announced the creation of the Simon Initiative, which focuses on how technology impacts learning, and how educators can avoid historically unsuccessful online learning models.

Carnegie’s research will examine ‘bumps in the road’ to online learning.

Named after Herbert Simon, the late Nobel laureate and CMU professor, the initiative is the first concrete example of CMU president Subra Suresh’s goal of bringing together areas of excellence in the university.

The announcement made Nov. 11 comes during the inaugural week for the new president, who took the reins in July and will be formally installed at an investiture ceremony at Nov. 15 at Carnegie Music Hall.

As part of the initiative, CMU has created a Global Learning Council, aimed at pulling together leaders from academia, industry and technology to help develop standards and best practices for the use of technology in education.

It draws from a wide variety of approaches, ranging from massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are free online courses, to computerized instruction that adapts as students demonstrate what they’ve learned or haven’t learned.

In a Carnegie news release, Suresh said, “The world is experiencing an educational revolution, but there has not been sufficient effort to date to address the fundamental question: Are students using these technology platforms really learning successfully?

“Carnegie Mellon has been studying how people learn with technology since the 1950s; working together with our council colleagues, our goal is to create guidelines and best practices that ensure academic rigor and successful learning for students worldwide,” he said.