Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., P.E.

Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., P.E. 

Industrial and Systems Engineering Department
510 EC; (248) 370-2435; Fax: (248) 370-4633
Personal Website

Ph.D., P.E., Oakland University, 1998

  • Joined Oakland University in 1998
  • Member of IEEE, EMBS, ASEE, HKN, Tau Beta Pi, Fellow, AIMBE
  • Supervising one doctoral and one master’s student


  • Probability and statistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Bioengineering
  • Electrical circuits
  • Thermodynamics and electromagnetics
  • Specialize in collaborative learning approaches and online learning
  • Teaches the world’s largest MOOC, Learning How to Learn, through Coursera-UCSD, with over two million registered students


  • Pathological altruism and altruism bias
  • Translational research that provides simple ways to understand how to learn math, science, engineering and technology more easily using insights from neuroscience and cognitive psychology
  • Massive open online courses

Selected Publications

1. "Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism," Barbara
Oakley, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013, 110 (2): 10408-10415.
Cited as “revolutionary” in the Wall Street Journal.

2. Learning How to Learn, Barbara Oakley & Terrence Sejnowski, with Alistair
McConville, Penguin-Random House, August 2018.

3. Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential,
Barbara Oakley, 2017, Penguin-Random House. A Booklist best-seller.

4. A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science, Barbara Oakley, 2014,
Penguin-Random House. A New York Times best-selling science book. Translated into 13

5. “Turning student groups into effective teams,” B Oakley, RM Felder, R Brent, I
Elhajj, Journal of Student Centered Learning, 2004, 2 (1), 9-34, (nearly 700 citations)

6. "Creating a sticky MOOC." B. Oakley, D. Poole, M. Nestor, OLC Journal of Online
Learning 20, 1 (2016): 1-12. A top-10 most-accessed paper of 2016.

7. “A Practical Approach to Understanding—and Applying!—the Scholarship of
Application,” Barbara Oakley and Cynthia J. Finelli, IEEE Transactions on Engineering
Education, May 2014, Vol. 57, No. 2, 69-74.