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CMU Professors Awarded National Science Foundation ‘Future of Work’ Grant

Grant will fund AI-augmented learning technologies in community college IT courses

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced today that a team of professors from CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems, Public Policy and Management and the School of Computer Science has been awarded one of 14 ‘Future of Work’ grants by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The grant, designed to increase opportunities for U.S. workers and generate positive societal and economic impacts at the local and national level, will fund a project led by Lee Branstetter, professor of economics and public policy at Heinz College, that will investigate how artificial intelligence (AI)-augmented learning can help accelerate student learning in community college information technology (IT) courses.

“We are thrilled to receive the generous support of the National Science Foundation for our project,” said Branstetter. “The digital economy is a source of opportunity, but most IT jobs are open only to workers with a university degree, leaving jobs unfilled and employees locked out of jobs for which they have the right aptitude but not the right degree. This grant will allow us to address worker shortages while creating cost-effective accessible pathways to living wage digital economy jobs for workers who previously lacked those opportunities.”

The project team will work with the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), the Pittsburgh area’s largest community college, to investigate how a framework developed by learning scientists can be used to align knowledge components in the community college’s IT courses with the most effective AI-driven educational technologies to enhance and accelerate learning.

“We are excited to be part of an effort that can provide pathways to family-sustaining careers by making more comprehensive technical education accessible to our students. This grant will enable CCAC and our team to develop a curriculum for a more diverse population of students who wish to pursue careers in technology. By addressing challenging technical topics and making relevant content more accessible, we hope to provide the region with a well-trained workforce, positioning Pittsburgh as the leader in technological fields for years to come,” said Michael Rinsem, endowed professor of technical curriculum for CCAC.

The project team of “A New Bridge to the Digital Economy: Integrated AI-Augmented Learning and Collaboration” includes co-principal investigators Rinsem, Carolyn Rose (CMU’s School of Computer Science), Majd Sakr (CMU’s School of Computer Science), Lauren Herckis (CMU Library and Human-Computer Interaction Institute) and Bruce McLaren (CMU’s School of Computer Science). 

The faculty from the School of Computer Science will use not only decades of research into computer- and technology-assisted learning science but also the latest developments in the field to enhance lessons. The team will work with the IT programs at CCAC to integrate AI-driven educational technologies such as intelligent tutoring systems and computer-supported collaborative learning.

“This project will break new ground in learning science by using an established theoretical framework to match the curricular components in IT courses with the most effective AI-driven educational technologies to support student learning,” said Carolyn Rose, the interim director of and a professor in the Language Technologies Institute. “We are excited to work with CCAC to use the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and learning science to help accelerate the future of work.”


About Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy
The Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy is home to two internationally recognized graduate-level institutions at Carnegie Mellon University: the School of Information Systems and Management and the School of Public Policy and Management. This unique colocation combined with its expertise in analytics set Heinz College apart in the areas of cybersecurity, health care, the future of work, smart cities, and arts & entertainment. In 2016, INFORMS named Heinz College the #1 academic program for Analytics Education. For more information, please visit