June 25, 2010, 04:22 PM ET
New Grant Program Seeks to Expand Free Online Courses
A new program will give grants to a variety of high-tech teaching projects, with the hope of helping low-income students better succeed in their studies.
Next Gen Learning Challenges, led by Educause, a nonprofit that supports education technology, is designed to find technology-based approaches to improve college readiness and completion among low-income students.
Initial goals include expanding access to free educational materials online, exploring the use of social networks for teaching, combining online and face-to-face education, and finding ways to measure learning success.
"Those are things that have been happening on the fringe of mainstream education for almost a decade now," said David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University. "These challenges are really about bringing those innovations to scale, so they benefit many more people than they have."
The program will provide grants to projects and, organizers hope, build a community of individuals and institutions that share its goals. It seeks to assist both current college students and young adults preparing for higher education.
Diana Oblinger, president and chief executive of Educause, announced the initiative today as a partnership between her organization, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
"If you are not well prepared when you come to college, that has a very dramatic impact on completion," she said. "We’re very excited and hoping we get a lot of community input to help us."