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The Open Learning Initiative, Scientifically Designed and Feedback Driven eLearning

The Open Learning Initiative, Scientifically Designed and Feedback Driven eLearning
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Author(s): Joel M. Smith (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch224


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The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University is a new evolutionary form of eLearning that derives from a particular tradition in using information and communication technologies (ICT) to deliver instruction. That tradition is distinctive in that it is based on rigorous and consistent application of research results and assessment methodologies from scientific studies of human learning when creating digital learning environments. The tradition is, in fact, a comparatively small part of the overall eLearning landscape. ICT-based learning tools are typically driven by the mere opportunity of leveraging technological possibilities, e.g. the “webifying” traditional textbooks, campus-wide laptop requirements, and podcasting of traditional lectures, or by intuitions of individual instructors about the potential effectiveness of particular eLearning strategies, e.g. an intuition that computer-based graphical simulations of the central limit theorem in statistics will help novice learners understand the meaning and implications of that theorem. While these non-scientific strategies, especially those based on instructor intuitions based on years of experience, have sometimes produced effective eLearning interventions, the success rate is destined to be low because they are not based on well-confirmed theory about learning and they seldom are subjected to any meaningful formative or summative evaluation to provide feedback about whether and how they are working and how they need to be modified to be more effective. The general failure of computer based pedagogical strategies, especially online classes, to bring transformative change to education is evidence of the limited success of these dominant strategies. (For some arguments for over-simplistic thinking in the eLearning domain see: Zemsky and Massey, 2005)

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