Clarity a problem in Simon Initiative announcement

Confused about the Simon Initiative? So is The Tartan.

In an email sent to the campus community last Monday by the President’s Office, President Subra Suresh announced the Simon Initiative, a program aimed at enhancing the ways in which students interact with technology to learn. Through Carnegie Mellon’s extensive work with learning data, the university hopes to improve education for students across the globe.

However, the initiative is ill-defined, and its outlined description and goals are too vague to instill confidence in the project. There is no lucid explanation on the website or in the email announcing the initiative.

The initial email, as well as the Simon Initiative’s website, promote the program as a way to gain information about how students currently learn and how they can be better educated with the help of technology.

But the public information about the initiative does little more than give readers an ambiguous idea of what the program aims to achieve.
The information about the initiative promises quantifiable information to achieve these goals, but there are no outlined quantifiable ways to measure the success of the initiative. Instead, the announcements are merely filled with buzzwords that amorphously hint at progress.

The recent email raises some pressing questions. What kind of research will the initiative specifically pursue to produce quantifiable learning outcomes? How will the Global Learning Council (GLC), announced alongside the Simon Initiative, provide greater global access to learning tools? How much will the initiative cost?

If these communications are how the President’s Office will interact with its students, how can it expect to convey information to other parties for fundraising, growth, and public relations?

Suresh, and others involved in the initiative, should have provided a tentative outline of tangible goals to the public and predicted impacts that the Simon Initiative will have. An outline, similar to a 10-year plan, could provide the campus community with more information about what the initiative aims to accomplish.

The President’s Office wanted the university’s community to know about the initiative. Otherwise, it would not have sent the email describing the initiative. But if the goal was to provide useful information, then the email was a failure.