Breakthrough educational models that will lead us to a new normal

EDUCAUSE, via the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), recently announced a third wave of funding for higher education, to fund breakthrough models for college completion. The goal of this RFP is to seed the development and creation of new post-secondary models that can answer the question of whether learning science, technology, policy, and organizational processes have advanced far enough to enable quality Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programs to be delivered at a cost of $5,000 – our target goal –  per student per year.

This wave of funding will award six grants of up to $1,000,000, disbursed over 2 years to educational models that dramatically increase personalization, engagement, and efficiency using the best of what is
exists in learning science and innovative technology. Funding is available to public, private not-for-profit, and for-profit institutions of higher education accredited to offer associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or both. A variety of partnerships may also be considered by challenge panel including but not limited to public private partnerships, 2-year and 4-year partnerships, or even state or regional consortia.

So why this and why now?

Educators and policy makers have known for decades that dramatic learning gains are possible if we
can consistently scale the best of what we know about student learning and success. For example, one size fits all learning has been shown to be effective only for a minority of students. Benjamin Bloom’s research has demonstrated that there is great potential in the application of technology to realize the potential “mastery learning” outcomes of 1:1 tutoring. The seemingly endless rise in costs of higher education combined with the dilemmas posed by what has been described as an “Iron Triangle” poses
a myriad of challenges for our nation. There is credible research that points to how dramatic gains in college completion would have significant positive benefits for our economy and on our nation’s unemployment. Direct benefits – not ambiguous or unclear benefits. We have complicated
problems that require tremendous creativity and bold thinking to be solved – and that is why we’re funding EDUCAUSE and the broader NGLC partnership to NGLC’s work is so valuable.

One of our unique roles as a private foundation is to help the post-secondary community test and refine practices and solutions that can meaningfully increase both affordability and the quality of today’s post-secondary educational programs. We know that the answers to many of these problems remain elusive and seem too difficult to solve. We also know however that there exists a growing community of educators and innovators who can and will rise to this challenge, guided by a shared set of aspirations:

  • Education should be learner-centered
  • Active, situated, and experiential learning, best measured by mastery, improves engagement, problem solving, and achievement
  • Information technology can be an enabling force for learning and for learners
  • Evidence and data should drive innovation and decision-making
  • Change requires that scale be built into innovation design

For more on the Next Generation Learning Challenges, please visit the NGLC website.

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Our home in the tangled bank of ideas

We work on the Postsecondary Success team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  We’ve built a humble home in the blogosphere to share thoughts about our work.

We will make occasional posts about things we read, meetings we attend, and conversations we have on this topic.

Our goal is to contribute these thoughts to the broader “tangled bank” of ideas in the field with the hope of together finding our way to breakthrough innovations that can improve rates of college completion and expand opportunity in America.