Carnegie Mellon To Experiment with Blended Learning for Computer Science
Mellon University will launch an experiment this year
discover if blended learning can help it meet the growing
computer science courses without also increasing staff or classroom
space. The university plans to pass selected course materials along to high schools for use in their classes as early as 2016.
The Pittsburgh-based university will add online
tools and targeted study groups to a popular introductory computer
course with the goal of both accommodating more students and maintaining
Associate Professor Jacobo Carrasquel, who teaches
Structures and Algorithms, a course popular with non-computer science
will largely replace formal lectures with videos and optional
will use an online software application, Classroom
Salon, to collect feedback
from students and identify concepts that need to be reinforced by
instruction. Then he will have small group meetings with students who he
been able to identify as having common instructional needs.
By using less time to lecture in person and spending
with smaller groups of students, Carrasquel said he hopes to target the needs of
students across the entire spectrum of capabilities.
"We can no longer teach to the middle," he said. "When you do
that, you're not aiming at the 20 percent of the top students or the 20
at the bottom."
Carrasquel will add new elements to the course this
fully implement them in the spring.
He will be helped in the process by a $200,000 grant
Computer Science Capacity Awards program, which tries to identify
to manage growing demands for computer science instruction.
Carrasquel, his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and
recognize that the solution to the challenge is not to simply add more
or to videotape lectures and push courses online.
"You're looking for something in between," said
Gunawardena, a Princeton University faculty member who is collaborating
project. "You're looking for that sweet spot."
The project is expected to not only evaluate the
effectiveness of the changes, but also to see whether it is scalable and
applied to other academic fields.
In another phase of the project, Carrasquel will
with a consortium of high school instructors with the hope to pass on
course materials to them that they can use in their classes beginning in
2016. Plans also call to share the materials with community college
"We're not just looking to build enrollment,"
Carrasquel said, "but also to make computer science instruction accessible to
minorities and other students who might not have had the opportunity to
a strong interest or background in computer science."
Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.