Carnegie Mellon University

Developing Strategies to Overcome TEL Barriers

With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Simon Initiative is working to better understand and develop strategies to overcome the roadblocks to using technology-enhanced learning (TEL) resources.

Why? TEL has the potential to dramatically improve education. For example:

  • According to a recent Rand Corp. study, high school algebra students of all backgrounds who used a Carnegie Mellon University-inspired cognitive tutor learned almost twice as much as a similar group who did not.
  • Students taking the Intro to Statistics online course developed at CMU learned more than traditional students, and they did so in half the time.
  • A Learning @ Scale study found that students learn six times more with CMU’s Simon Initiative approach that emphasizes interactive activities than with MOOC courses, which rely on students watching videos to learn.

Yet, sizable barriers are preventing wide adoption of effective TEL.

Overcoming Institutional Barriers to Adoption

One objective is to identify the obstacles that faculty face in implementing TEL best practices and assess the types of university policies and practices needed to overcome typical institutional barriers to adoption. Results will inform further research, especially in the identification of specific strategies that will increase the likelihood of effective adoption and sustained use of TEL resources across different institutional contexts. To that end, this research will subsequently be extended to other universities, domestically and internationally.


This research takes a mixed-methods approach, employing ethnographic observation, a comparative analysis of semi-structured interviews and a faculty survey. These components mutually inform one another and take place concurrently. The data will produce a refined understanding of the interrelationship between specific policies, barriers and affordances in the context of institutional culture.


Carnegie Mellon’s Simon Initiative is seeking institutional partners to extend the scope of the current research and generate a comparative dataset. Partnering institutions will receive individualized institutional data delineating a profile of faculty values and other professional characteristics. A scientific approach to disentangling the complexity of faculty culture and institutional policy can empower educators to identify institutionally appropriate policy levers which can improve the chances of successful development, implementation, adoption and sustained use of TEL resources.

To learn more about this work or how to become a partner, contact Lauren Herckis.

Read the final report [pdf]: Understanding and Overcoming Institutional Roadblocks to the Adoption and Use of Technology-Enhanced Learning Resources in Higher Education