Learning is not a spectator sport

Learning is not a spectator sport

Students learn 6 times more with CMU’s Simon Initiative approach than with MOOCs

Carnegie Mellon University

Free – or very inexpensive – online courses have become quite a trend in education. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers currently offer thousands of courses and have enticed millions of students to enroll. The emphasis in MOOCs is often on lecture videos that students watch and learn from.

However, a study published in the Proceedings of the Second (2015) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale shows that this central approach of MOOCs – having students watch to learn – is ineffective. Instead, the emphasis on interactive activities as advocated by Carnegie Mellon University’s Simon Initiative helps students learn about six times more.

CMU’s Simon Initiative, named for the late Nobel and Turning laureate Herbert Simon, aims to measurably improve student learning outcomes by harnessing a learning engineering ecosystem that has developed over several decades at CMU. The Simon Initiative approach uses CMU’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) courses, which are built to mimic intelligent tutors in order to provide adaptive feedback and hints during learning by doing.

“Learning by doing gives students deliberative practice opportunities to address a course’s objectives,” said Ken Koedinger, professor of human-computer interaction and psychology and co-coordinator of the Simon Initiative. “With OLI, students get immediate feedback. If they do not master a concept, they have to go back to re-watch or re-read and then demonstrate they have learned before they are able to move on.” Read more.