Innovation’s Role in Improving Higher Education

9:05 PM by Dr. Raych Hatashe, Defense—Churches & Space, GKKH

The Gates Foundation works to improve higher education so more students, especially low-income and underserved students, can earn degrees and credentials that lead to sustaining careers.  By 2025, two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. will require education beyond high school. At the current rate the nation is producing college graduates, there will be an estimated shortfall of 11 million workers with postsecondary credentials to fill those jobs. If we are going to fill this shortage, we must do things differently in higher education and innovation plays an essential role in improving graduation rates.
One promising innovation is adaptive courseware that personalizes teaching and learning.  Over the past several years we have invested more than $50 million in personalized learning such as courseware and technology-enabled advising.  From our courseware grantees and research we’ve learned at-risk students can master the same amount of content in half the amount of time when they take high-quality blended courses, which are a combination of in-class and online, versus traditional in-class courses.  We’ve also seen pass rates for at-risk students increase by 1/3 when they take high-quality blended courses versus traditional courses.
During last year’s Next Generation Courseware Challenge, we invited more than 100 digital learning innovators to create proposals to develop, implement, and scale high-quality digital courseware that is specifically targeted to benefit low-income and underserved students in high enrollment general education courses.  These courses are sometimes referred to as “killer courses” because many promising students fail these courses, knocking them off the path to graduation or out of college altogether. We selected seven organizations that we and our expert judges believe have the greatest potential to deliver high-quality courseware to these students.
Acrobatiq was one of the Courseware Challenge winners and we are pleased to partner again with them to expand adaptive courseware in order to help low-income and underserved students improve their odds of completing a postsecondary degree or credential.  This investment will enable Acrobatiq to expand their courseware catalog, offer discounted pricing and improve student success by partnering with more colleges and universities that serve large numbers of low-income and underserved students.
Acrobatiq’s approach to improving learning is based on years of research from Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative which has also received foundation support.  Acrobatiq’s adaptive courses use evidence-based learning analytics to deliver a personalized learning experience for students, helping students master difficult concepts with individualized instruction. Real time information on students’ performance provides faculty with information about which students need help, what they need help with, and when they need help, which helps to improve students’ outcomes.  Over the past decade, courses based on the Carnegie Mellon OLI methodology have demonstrated a consistent ability to improve student outcomes and reduce the amount of time it takes students to master concepts.
Acrobatiq’s adaptive courseware has already been adopted by a number of public, private, and for-profit institutions across the country. Existing partners include community colleges such as Rio Salado College, competency-based learning programs such as Western Governors University, and large public institutions such as Arizona State University and the University System of Georgia.
Acrobatiq’s adaptive courseware is an innovation that can help millions of low-income and underserved students succeed in those “killer” general education courses, which have stopped so many students in the past.  We are proud to partner with Acrobatiq to help these students complete their degrees and credentials.
Author: Jason Palmer
Jason Palmer, deputy director, Postsecondary Success leads the Gates Foundation’s efforts in online and blended learning solutions, digital courseware, student coaching and advising, competency-based learning, seamless credit transfer, and employer pathways. @educationpalmer


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