Google Research

An Approach to Knowledge Component/Skill Modeling in Online Courses

  • Norman Bier
  • Sean Lip
  • Ross Strader
  • Candace Thille
  • Dawn Zimmaro
Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University) and Google Inc. (2014)


The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) is an open educational resources initiative that began in 2002 with a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In order to create online learning environments that provide goal-directed practice based on learning science research, OLI course design begins by identifying and refining student-centered, measurable learning objectives. These learning objectives specify what students will be able to do at the end of a section of instructional content, and developing these learning outcomes is a key part of the course development team’s process and is usually accomplished by close collaboration between learning engineers and domain experts. A skills map is created by the domain expert and/or learning engineer to identify the skills that compose the objectives, and OLI’s learning model links to the skills map to predict student mastery of each skill and related learning objectives. In this paper, we will provide an overview of the skills mapping process, theoretical learning model approach used to predict mastery, and analytics reports currently embedded in the designs for OLI courses, and suggest recommendations for future improvements.

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