Kolowich, S. (2009) Hybrid education 2.0 Inside Higher Education, December 28

An interesting article that provides more information about the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, particularly the instructional design behind the initiative.

The importance of the model (if I understand it correctly) is that while providing a more or less self-standing online learning environment, instructors can gather statistics from learners’ online working to identify those areas that may benefit from additional face-to-face teaching, or can use face-to-face sessions to build on what students have already learned online. The two critical elements in the design appear to be a computer-based tutorial system that can respond to individual differences in learning, and the ability to provide instructors with statistics on what students are learning. This then allows an instructor to decide on how best to use classroom time.

What puzzles me are the somewhat grandiose claims being made for this (and it is certainly attracting a lot of money). It does not seem too different from what you would find in any well-designed fully online course using a learning management system, and it still suggests to me a very teacher (or computer) controlled learning environment – but I really need to see it in action. I’m still wondering also whether the instructor – or rather the instructor plus students in a classroom – is really necessary if the design is so good.

In any case, it is good to see some hard thinking going into designing hybrid learning environments. What we need though is some independent evaluation that takes into account a full cost-benefit analysis.


  1. Dear Tony,

    As a member of the public who enjoys learning, I am a big fan of the Open Learning Initiaitve. What impresses me most about OLI is the interdisciplinary nature of the collaboration: educational and cognitive researchers working alongside computer scientists to encapsulate subject matter expertise. The ideas may not be new, but I’d argue that CMU’s execution is brilliant, and has resulted in a uniquely effective set of learning tools. And frankly, that someone is giving me a free course while simultaneously respecting my “cognitive load” is quite flattering.


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