Carnegie Mellon University

About OpenSimon


The mission of the Simon Initiative, through it's OpenSimon Toolkit release, is to create and grow a community of educators who use and expand on the Learning Engineering toolkit and the larger Simon Initiative ecosystem to improve learning outcomes for individual learners, while collectively advancing our larger understanding of human learning.


On May 7, 2019, the Simon Initiative, as part of the second-annual EEP Summit formally announced the release of $100M of learning science research, tools, content and technology – the OpenSimon Toolkit – to fuel new advances in student success and learning science.

The toolkit is an integrated set of techniques and tools used to drive deliberate, iterative improvements in education. This approach, which we call Learning Engineering, supports educators as citizen scientists, and helps people who support them — at universities and companies that make educational products — provide help that is grounded in the science of learning.

Together, the elements of the toolkit provide support across all phases of the Learning Engineering Lifecycle: Design, Develop, Deliver, and Discover. The techniques have been in practice for decades at Carnegie Mellon University, and tools have been created over these decades to improve outcomes at CMU.

The Simon Approach

The Simon Approach to Learning Engineering was identified and developed partly as a result of more than a decade of the Open Learning Initiative's (OLI's) research into the effectiveness of online learning. The first grant that firmly established OLI resulted from conversations held between Carnegie Mellon representatives and Mike Smith and Cathy Casserly from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in the fall of 2001. Smith and Casserly were visiting many institutions across the US, after having just funded MIT's Open Courseware project, looking for the next “big thing” in online open education.

The concept of the Open Learning Initiative came from the idea of integrating Carnegie Mellon's expertise in cognitive tutoring into whole online courses that would stand on their own and enact instruction. By 2002, a proposal had been written and funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to develop our first four courses: Causal and Statistical Reasoning, Statistics, Logic & Proofs, and Economics. 

And these are just a few examples of the rich history behind the development of these tools. For more, you could explore the background of our namesake, Herbert Simon, or visit the project pages for each of the individual technologies, listed here.