Simon Initiative targets research

Carnegie Mellon University recently announced the inception of the Simon Initiative, a campus-wide push for interdisciplinary research collaboration and technology-aided learning initiatives.

The Simon Initiative is named after the late professor Herbert Simon, known for his work in cognitive psychology and computer science, and related applications in education.

The Simon Initiative is complemented by a new seed-funding program at the university that will open up opportunities for expansion of education initiatives. According to an official email from President Subra Suresh, “The Simon Initiative will also coordinate campus-wide activities with the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, the Science of Learning Center jointly administered with the University of Pittsburgh and funded by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative activities, and other organizations on campus to connect research on learning with CMU courses and the on-campus experiences of students and faculty.”

The program looks and hopes to combine research, technology, and entrepreneurship within the university, and hopes to unite the university’s technological and educational worlds to help better understand human learning. The initiative will also ensure that high quantities of research data will be stored so that different institutions can utilize them.

The university plans to create the Global Learning Council (GLC), comprised of industrial and academic leaders, which will share data among various institutions and groups to help create a better environment. The official website for the Simon Initiative states that “a data bank consortia will collect and store thousands of high-quality data sets, accumulate the best analytic methods available, and create a large research community enabled to improve education through empirical research.”

“This council and the Simon Initiative arrive at a critical time for educators,” President Suresh said in the official university press release. “The world is experiencing an educational revolution, but there has not been sufficient effort to date to address the fundamental question: Are students using these technology platforms really learning successfully? Carnegie Mellon has been studying how people learn with technology since the 1950s; working together with our council colleagues, our goal is to create guidelines and best practices that ensure academic rigor and successful learning for students worldwide.”
The program has received praise from education experts. “Providing a platform that can attract world-class talent and significant public and private resources is a critical step forward,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a university press release. “Efforts like this new one from Carnegie Mellon will advance this vital conversation.”

Since the 1950s, Carnegie Mellon has been at the vanguard of the movement to figure out how people are able to learn. Studies have shown that such practices by universities are more effective than the traditional practices used by many schools. The GLC is already attracting tremendous support, and organizations such as Microsoft are showing preliminary interest. Carnegie Mellon students want to learn more about the initiative. Hanson Zeng, a first-year information systems major, said, “I think the Simon Initiative idea seems great, but getting big names into one organization may have a façade of real accomplishment. But until there is action and outcome I can’t really say it’s effective, considering CMU has been in the forefront of tech learning since 1950.”

The Simon Initiative promises advances in technology-centered learning through the GLC and a new source of funding for research and innovation.