CMU’s Hybrid Education 2.0: Better than a classroom

January 4, 2010 at 9:59 am 3 comments

CMU seems to be in the lead in the US in using advanced technology to improve higher education.  Unlike other approaches that aim to simply make resources available, the folks at CMU are trying to improve education by having the software teach.

Earlier in the decade, Carnegie Mellon set out to design software for independent learners taking courses through the university’s Open Learning Initiative, an effort to make courses freely available to non-enrolled learners. But rather than merely making course materials available to non-students, like MIT’s famous OpenCourseware project, Carnegie Mellon wanted to design courses that would respond to the individual needs of each student. It currently has courses in 12 different subjects available on its Web site, mostly in math and science.

Even more importantly, they’re doing the evaluation showing that it works.  Comparing to lecture is politically unpopular, and it’s hard to show convincingly better results.

In the process of testing the software on Carnegie Mellon students to make sure it would “do no harm” if used, the researchers found that, over a two-semester trial period, students in a traditional classroom introductory statistics course scored no better than similar students who used the open-learning program and skipped the three weekly lectures and lab period.

via News: Hybrid Education 2.0 – Inside Higher Ed.

The downside is that the statistics course results are  all that I hear about from CMU’s results.  Other subjects?  Even more to the point here, how about computer science?  Given that distance education uses technology, and computer science is teaching with and about technology, with teachers who (hopefully) are experts in the technology, we seem to be a perfect target domain for distance learning.  Unlike (say) Biology, where the subject of study can’t be controlled at a distance (easily — Open University UK used to send sets of slides and microscopes to all its Biology students), we have complete control over what we’re teaching, and everyone has that technology ar0und them in multiple forms.

Anybody have some great CS distance learning results that they can point to?  What’s the best in CS distance learning today?  The CS educational technology results that I know of are also CMU’s — the two-standard-deviation improvement of the CMU Lisp Tutors over standard lecture and IDEs.  What’s the next closest competitor?

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Bjarne Stroustrup on what new software developers should learn and what CS is From Boards to Bridges: The Case for Software Engineering

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