Carnegie Mellon University
April 05, 2022

CMU Partners with Argos Education on OLI-Torus Instrumentation  

By Caroline Sheedy

Educators at all levels perform experiments in their classrooms. A statistics professor might try to level the playing field for her students by forming study groups based on background and skills. An English teacher could motivate her ninth graders by rewarding them for completing low-stakes tasks. But these experiments often stay hidden in the classroom. 

Supported by Schmidt Futures, Carnegie Mellon University will expand the capabilities of the next generation of their Open Learning Initiative (OLI) courseware, OLI-Torus, in partnership with Argos Education. The team will add instrumentation to the platform,  allowing learning scientists and educators to run in-course experiments for the first time. 

Over two years, CMU and Argos will make technical upgrades to OLI-Torus that will allow educators to design experiments in their courses on the OLI platform, collect more meaningful data on student outcomes, and better support researcher and educator communities. 

Norman Bier, executive director of CMU's Simon Initiative and director of OLI will lead the project.  

“I’m excited to expand OLI’s community and to enable both learning science researchers and citizen scientists to share research questions from real-world classrooms,” Bier said. “We know that our platform is an effective tool for improving learning outcomes in individual classrooms through research—this will help educators share what they are learning and help each other. We’re pleased to partner with Argos  which, in addition to its commitment to the open-source project, is helping OLI-Torus  achieve a larger scale of impact.”  

Anita Delahay, Argos’s head of learning science, will spearhead the research and development of the work as co-principal investigator. Delahay earned her Ph.D. from  CMU in Learning Science and Cognitive Psychology in 2021.  

OLI-Torus courseware combines an interactive textbook with learning activities and is currently used by faculty in 285 universities and K-12 schools. It includes an analytics dashboard that teachers and students can use to access learning outcomes in real-time.  Argos, a startup that enables its customers to create digital curricular experiences, has experience working with the platform.

Michael Feldstein, the co-founder and chief innovation officer of Argos, said a goal of this project is to help make group research on effective teaching practices a natural part of course design. 

“It’s currently very difficult for educational researchers to conduct efficacy research at scale,” Feldstein said. “This project will make education more effective and equitable by making a range of capabilities, from research design to data collection, more easily accessible and usable. And we’re honored to deepen our collaboration with OLI and its  20-year history of innovation in applied learning research.”  

The team will initially recruit fifty learning researchers and twenty classroom teachers to launch experiments on the upgraded platform, then open it to broader use. Eventually,  the instrumentation could be used to help researchers and educators form communities.  

“Educators could form a community of practice around a particular course design and work together to conduct research at scale while focusing on their own immediate teaching needs for their own students,” Feldstein said. 

Learn more about OLI-Torus on the Torus community page.