CMU Lands Grant for Technology-Enchanced Learning Project

Apr 22, 2015

A recent study by the Rand Corp. found high school students in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) algebra courses were able to learn twice as much as students enrolled in traditional courses.

Carnegie Mellon University has received a two-year, $1 million grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York to support the school’s Simon Initiative, which looks to study and improve learning outcomes through technology in everything from computer science to ancient history classes.

The grant will allow the university to implement best practice recommendations for TEL resources outlined by the Global Learning Council, which was created as part of the Simon Initiative.

The council, combined of academic, industry and nonprofit leaders, held its inaugural meeting last fall, and since then, has made nine recommendations to maximize learning outcomes through TEL resources.

According to Richard Scheines, dean of CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, recommendations include collecting data to continuously improve courses, creating a campus culture and developing strategies for data sharing.

“Even if we have some good idea of what will work and what won’t, it’s been very difficult to get institutions to adopt these practices because sometimes they’re expensive and sometimes you need support from the human being side and sometimes you need technological support,” Scheines said. “There’s lots of barriers.”

As part of the grant, CMU will add TEL aspects to research training courses in several of its schools and colleges. The School of Computer Science will also develop TEL components for its introductory classes.

One of the biggest reasons schools are hesitant to adopt TEL courses is the fear that computers could one day replace teachers, according to Scheines. But, he said that would be impossible

“What we’re going to see over the next 10 to 20 years is a better understanding of where the computer or where the technology is helpful and where it’s not and have the way it’s used in the classroom leverage and empower the teacher as opposed to replace them,” he said.

Scheines said humans bring a social element to education that computers could never reproduce.

“Our approach tries to have the technology help students get ahold of the basic skills and concepts and then use class time with professors to work on more nuanced situations like case studies, applications, examples, etcetera,” he said.