Carnegie Mellon Awarded $1.9 Million Hewlett Foundation Grant to Initiate New Web-based Courses

October 24, 2002

To be provided free to individual users on the Internet, the finished courses will also be available, for a small access fee, to colleges and high schools that wish to offer them for credit.

The courses include Formal Logic and Causal Reasoning with Statistical Data, both already developed, as well as Introductory Microeconomics and Introductory Statistics, which will be produced next.

“We believe this project will enable us to create a self-sustaining infrastructure that will provide opportunities to create not only online courses but also Web-based course materials,” said lead researcher Joel Smith, vice provost for computing services at Carnegie Mellon.

“Our goal here is not to replace all college education with online courses, but rather to explore what can be done with introductory classes, which are usually large-lecture format to begin with,” said Smith.

“In our search for high-quality online courses, the Hewlett Foundation has been repeatedly disappointed with the under-utilization of technology’s potential,” said Marshall Smith, education program director at the Hewlett Foundation. “By supporting the development of courses of the highest quality, and by making them readily available on the Web, the Hewlett Foundation and Carnegie Mellon hope to raise the benchmark for others creating online learning environments.

“Carnegie Mellon is well positioned to push the envelope on this ‘next generation’ of courses as it combines the talents of distinguished faculty with decades of experience in cognitive science and top-notch technological expertise,” Marshall Smith added.

Faculty members who are collaborating in the development of the online courses represent a range of expertise. Experts from statistics, human-computer interaction, psychology and chemistry have contributed to the project, a reflection of Carnegie Mellon’s strength in interdisciplinary research.

“The Hewlett Foundation grant will enable us to not only improve the educational experience of our students, but also to export the technology to other institutions,” said Rob Kass, head of Carnegie Mellon’s Statistics Department. “I believe this work will have an important impact on Statistics education worldwide.”

The Hewlett Foundation’s primary purpose is “to promote the well-being of mankind by supporting selected activities of a charitable nature as well as organizations or institutions engaged in such activities.” It was established by the late industrialist William Hewlett, his wife, Flora Lamson Hewlett, and their eldest son, Walter B. Hewlett and incorporated as a private foundation in 1966.


Teresa Thomas