Home Gates Foundation Distributes $10M to Build Tech Tools to Boost College Graduation

Gates Foundation Distributes $10M to Build Tech Tools to Boost College Graduation

Last fall, the Gates Foundation, along with the ed-tech non-profit EDUCAUSE announced its Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative, a multi-year, multi-million dollar project to help support programs that boost college readiness and college completion.

Today, the Next Generation Learning Challenges has named the 29 projects that will receive the first round of funding.

Using Tech to Boost College Graduation Rates

These first award recipients are developing tools and programs for higher education, all in order to boost college graduation rates.

Although the country’s abysmal high school graduation rate that often get the most attention, college graduation rates in this country are pretty lousy too. According to recent Department of Education numbers, only 29.0% of students at public colleges and universities graduate in the traditional four-year time frame. “Tradition” is fast becoming six years to get a degree, and when you look at that time frame, graduation rates do jump to 54.7%. That’s still no good, and even with degree in hand, those extra two or more years are pretty costly.

The Challenges, The Grant Winners

The Next Generation Learning Challenges program wants to tackle this issue by supporting various innovative technology efforts at colleges and universities. Applicants for the grants had to address at least one of the following areas:

Blended Learning: programs that combine face-to-face instruction with online learning

Better Engagement: apps like games, video, simulations, and social media that will encourage deeper learning and more engagement

Open Courseware: free and open-licensed educational content, particularly for introductory courses in math, science and English (which often have low rates of student success)

Learning Analytics: real-time monitoring of students’ progress, with customized student support

Winners included Arizona State University’s simSchool, a game-like simulation that develops teaching skills, Marist College‘s Open Academic Analytics Initiative, that will develop an open-source learning analytics tool, and OpenStudy, which has built a social learning network around open courseware.

“The Next Generation Learning Challenges and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation share our goal of making topflight education accessible to the masses by leveraging technology,” OpenStudy’s CEO and co-founder Chris Sprague told ReadWriteWeb, describing the plans to build out the peer-to-peer teaching and study groups on the site and transform open educational resources into “the world’s biggest, most diverse, equal-access classrooms.”

You can read the full list of winners here.

Next Generation Learning Challenges received more than 600 applicants for the program, and the 29 chosen will receive grants ranging from $180,000 to $750,000. The organization is currently reviewing the applications for its second round of funding, with grants targeted at middle school students. Look for an announcement of those winners in June.

Image credits: Flickr user John Walker, alamosbasement

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