Posted by Rob Knies

Anoop Gupta 

Education can take many forms. We’re all familiar with the typical ones, those in which teachers teach so that students can learn. But sometimes, the educational process also can be all about learning how people learn.

That particular form of education is what the Global Learning Council (GLC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is designed to support, and it also is why the university has called upon Anoop Gupta to help.

Gupta, a distinguished scientist with Microsoft Research, is one of 11 leaders from academia, industry, and technology named Nov. 11 as founding members of the council, to be chaired by Subra Suresh, CMU president. The consortium, dedicated to open sharing of data, will develop standards, identify best practices, and encourage educational engagement via the use of science and technology.

The council’s announcement was part of CMU’s introduction of the Simon Initiative, named after the late Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate and CMU professor. The initiative represents an effort to use emerging technology platforms for education to improve understanding of student learning.

Gupta knows a thing or two about such matters. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, he was in Hefei, China, to participate in a panel discussion about massive open online courses as part of the Computing in the 21st Century Conference, hosted by Microsoft Research Asia.

Peter Lee, Microsoft corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Research, applauds Gupta’s selection and CMU’s intention to extend the use of technology to assist in education.

“We are honored that CMU has invited Microsoft to join the GLC as a founding member,” Lee said. “Microsoft and CMU share a common, longstanding commitment to advancing the state of the art in learning technologies, and we are convinced that the Simon Initiative and the GLC will help accelerate this important mission.”

Suresh announced the launch of the initiative and the council, saying that questions about the use of technology in education remain to be addressed.

“This council and the Simon Initiative arrive at a critical time, for educators and students alike,” he said. “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?”

To help answer that question, CMU will be providing open access to the world’s largest collection of educational data, amassed in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh. That data provides detailed information about how people learn and how to design and deploy effective learning software.

For decades, CMU has been researching how students interact with learning software, with the ultimate goal of accelerating the use of learning science and technology to improve students’ educational achievements. The focus of the Simon Initiative and the GLC will be on the intersection of technology and education, with four goals:

  • Global sharing of rich data.
  • Helping teachers teach.
  • Accelerating innovation and enabling it to scale appropriately by engaging startups.
  • Improving the learning experience on campus.

“Carnegie Mellon has been studying how people learn with technology since the 1950s,” Suresh said. “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.”