Reinventing Education

Photo slideshow from Washington, D.C. OLI event

Reinventing Education

Long before President Obama called for a revolution in U.S. higher education productivity, Carnegie Mellon University was already leading the way with its Open Learning Initiative (OLI).

CMU's OLI is changing the landscape of higher education by providing not only easier access, but also better tools for students to attain their degrees.

"Students need more than just access to online material," said CMU President emeritus Jared L. Cohon. "They need an interactive environment, and that's what CMU's Open Learning Initiative is."

We're not just posting course material online. This is what sets Carnegie Mellon's initiative apart. "The most important point about CMU's OLI is that the team-based, scientific design of courses, combined with rich feedback makes for a much better experience for students and their instructors," said Cohon.

Cohon noted another important point. The OLI experience is not about replacing teachers, it is about how technology can assist in the science of learning. Through CMU's OLI, learning happens when students are actively engaged in the material with immediate targeted feedback on their work.

"This technology allows faculty members to think differently about the range of offerings and experiences in higher education. The CMU OLI model will surely expand options. A student might take one class in OLI 'anytime, anywhere' mode while taking another course delivered in the traditional way," Cohon added.

CMU's OLI grew out of collaboration among cognitive scientists, experts in human computer interaction and seasoned faculty who have both a deep expertise in their respective fields and a strong commitment to excellence in higher education.

According to former OLI Director Candace Thille (named by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the top 12 Tech Innovators, re-engineering education), "In a nutshell — CMU's OLI is scientifically-based open online learning environments designed to improve both quality and productivity in higher education." OLI does this by combining the accessibility and low-cost of the Internet with the high quality of individualized instruction provided by a great teacher.

As a result, OLI has the potential to bring sustained educational achievement for many who have never been able to grasp this level of academic achievement before, and at a cost that middle-class American families can afford.

CMU hosted an event on March 1, 2012, in Washington D.C. on the topic of OLI. There, Cohon discussed OLI and CMU's leadership in the science of learning. In addition to Thille, he was joined by Ken Koedinger, CMU professor of Human-Computer Interaction; Martha Kanter, under secretary, U.S. Department of Education; and William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.   

Prior to the event in DC, Cohon was one of ten university presidents invited to the White House to meet with President Obama to discuss OLI, and how it can help reduce costs and improve productivity of U.S. higher education.

Related Links: Open Learning Initiative | Presidential Perspectives [.pdf] | Reinventing Education Timeline [.pdf] | US News Article: Ken Koedinger on LearnLab

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