In Higher Education, a Focus on Technology

Steve Lohr, In Higher Education, a Focus on Technology, N.Y. Times, Oct. 10, 2010, available at

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and four nonprofit education organizations are beginning an ambitious initiative to address that challenge by accelerating the development and use of online learning tools.

“Innovation is your only hope,” Bill Gates said. “And the only new game in town is technology.”

Among the projects that have successfully used online technology is the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, which has adopted hybrid models of digital and classroom teaching to accelerate learning. In one project, a college statistics course was taught in two different ways using comparable groups of students: a traditional class lasted 15 weeks, with four class meetings a week, whereas a hybrid one of online course material held two classroom sessions a week.

The hybrid class lasted half as long — seven-and-a-half weeks — as the traditional setting. Yet the students’ test scores and retained learning, measured later in the year, were as high as or higher than those of the conventional lecture class, said Candace M. Thille, director of the initiative.

In short, the hybrid approach doubled the productivity of education in that program. The course materials, which have been modified for community colleges, have been introduced at 25 two-year colleges this fall.

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