The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the launch of a new multiyear initiative to help improve college readiness and completion rates in the United States through the innovative use of technology.
Created in partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative will award grants every six to twelve months to organizations and innovators working to bring promising technology tools to more students, teachers, and schools. During the inaugural funding round, grants ranging from $250,000 to $750,000 — up to a total of $20 million — will be awarded to organizations working to increase the use of blended-learning models combining face-to-face instruction with online activities; deepen students' learning and engagement through the use of interactive applications; make high-quality open courseware more readily available; and help institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics. EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association dedicated to advancing higher education through the use of information technology, will lead the initiative.
Launched in conjunction with the release of a new white paper, Next Generation Learning (8 pages, PDF), which outlines how technology can help students and educators dramatically improve student outcomes in high schools and postsecondary education, the initiative will rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of funded projects in order to help educators and technologists understand the approaches that help students succeed and why. The program also will create opportunities for innovators, educators, and developers to exchange ideas and work together to move the field forward.
"American education has been the best in the world, but we're falling below our own high standards of excellence for high school and college attainment," said Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates. "We're living in a tremendous age of innovation. We should harness new technologies and innovation to help all students get the education they need to succeed."