DIGITAL PEDAGOGY: CARNEGIE MELLON’S
OPEN LEARNING INITIATIVE
The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) represents Carnegie Mellon University’s distinctive approach to open online education. The project’s first grant proposal to the Hewlett Foundation opens by stating an ambitious premise: “Carnegie Mellon is working to help the World Wide Web make good on its promise of vastly accessible and highly effective online education.”1 Building on Carnegie Mellon’s past experiments with the use of information technology to improve educational efficiency and effectiveness, the initiative’s 14 introductory courses provide users with self-contained rich online environments that profess to guide users—with the aid of interactive examples, embedded assessments, virtual labs, and constant feedback—toward the same learning outcomes as enrolled students taking the equivalent courses in person.2
The OLI seeks to expand access to instruction as well as to content. Rather than simply publishing professors’ static teaching materials, as many other online courseware initiatives do, the OLI asks faculty to work with a team of experts to completely redesign their courses for web-based delivery. This interdisciplinary approach draws on Carnegie Mellon’s institutional strengths in instructional
1“Four Courses, Millions of Users: Creating a New Paradigm for Online Education: A Proposal from Carnegie Mellon University to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.” February 22, 2002, 2.
2Though heavily reliant on funding from the Hewlett Foundation, some of the courses in the OLI were direct beneficiaries of earlier experiments with technology in teaching that predate Hewlett’s involvement in this space, such as those conducted through the Pew Charitable Trust’s Program on Course Redesign (PRC) and the Mellon Foundation’s Cost-Effective Uses of Technology in Teaching (CEUTT) program.