Hewlett Foundation Awards TERC Grant for Online Learning Center

December 4, 2002

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has awarded TERC a grant to plan the Center for the Study of Learning in Online Environments. The grant will allow TERC, which has a rich history of innovation in online learning, to lay the groundwork for a center that will investigate major questions about how learning occurs in these environments.

The planning grant is itself the result of over 12 months of preparation by TERC, which considered how such a center could most productively build on the organization's strong foundation of research in science and mathematics learning. Planning will focus on developing a center that is multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary. Partnerships with universities will also be explored.

"The hope is that out of the grant's work a center will emerge which can begin to answer important questions, such as, What are the ways in which these environments can uniquely support and enhance learning? In what ways can these environments constrain how people learn? and What can we learn about learning itself by observing its unfolding online? The upcoming year will be instrumental in clarifying the purposes, foci and scope of such a center," said Karen Sheingold, director of the planning project.

The Hewlett Foundation grant is in part recognition of TERC's expertise in online learning. As early as the mid-1980s TERC was conducting ground-breaking work to bring telecollaboration into K-12 classrooms, including the pioneering and popular science program, Kids Network. Current initiatives like the TERC/Lesley University online master's in science education program have laid the foundation for serious research about the effectiveness of online learning--research that goes beyond comparing face-to-face and online models to probe the unique learning possibilities represented by the online medium.

"If you consider that the World Wide Web didn't even exist 10 years ago, and only now is coming into its own as a multifaceted and dynamic place for learning, the Center's job is to help point us towards the kinds of learning environments possible ten years from now that we can't even imagine today," said TERC president Dennis Bartels. "This is an exciting undertaking for TERC, and of international significance."

The Hewlett Foundation, incorporated as a private foundation in the State of California in 1966, was established by the late Palo Alto industrialist William R. Hewlett, his wife, Flora Lamson Hewlett, and their eldest son, Walter B. Hewlett. The Foundation's broad purpose, as stated in the articles of incorporation, is to promote the well-being of humanity by supporting selected activities of a charitable nature, as well as organizations or institutions engaged in such activities.