The Learning Engineering approach
to instructional design and research

The Simon Approach to Learning Engineering was identified and developed partly as a result of more than a decade of the Open Learning Initiative’s research into the effectiveness of online learning. But to think of Learning Engineering as OLI’s isolated discovery would do a disservice to the countless professionals and students contributing across domains, and to several gritty sciences that have endeavored for decades to understand the invisible act of learning.

For simplicity’s sake, we often talk about OLI as though it’s a monolithic organization. But it’s not a tidy group with a neat boundary. Rather than OLI as a “thing,” sometimes it can be helpful to think of OLI as one of the natural products of the current state of learning science; it can be likened to a rest stop on a highway we know will never end, but whose destination is “Improved Student Outcomes.”

OLI is the people who build and use online courses. It’s the cognitive scientists and data scientists who design and test algorithms that analyze student interactions. It’s the researchers who build giant stores of learning data so other researchers around the globe can access it. OLI is computer engineers and designers who want to maximize the learning a student can achieve from every practice exercise, and minimize the distractions the environment can introduce. It’s the long line of learning scientists and technologists and visionaries who worked to help students become better at learning and educators become better at teaching.