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Online Learning Consortium Launches The ‘OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize’

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (Oct. 16, 2015) — The Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the leading professional organization devoted to advancing the quality of online learning worldwide, today announced it is launching the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize, an annual prize competition to recognize exemplar higher education faculty-led teams and institutions for advancing student success, particularly among underserved student groups, through adoption of digital courseware. Digital courseware refers to adaptive digital learning tools, including software that supports student learning such as games, apps and personalized content. READ FULL PRESS RELEASE

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Online Learning Consortium Awarded Adaptive Learning Grant

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (Oct. 13, 2015) — The Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the leading professional organization devoted to advancing the quality of online learning worldwide, today announced it has received a $2.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to speed adoption of next-generation digital courseware solutions by higher education institutions and faculty, in order to improve outcomes in general education courses, especially for disadvantaged and underserved student groups.  READ FULL PRESS RELEASE >>

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FAQs

Why was OLC awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?

OLC was awarded this grant after presenting its unique approach, resources and expertise in helping influence the type of advancement and adoption of digital courseware that can help drive meaningful change in closing the degree completion gap.

OLC has extensive experience in research, pedagogy, and best practices with a dedication to the continuous quality improvement approach. It is a respected and credible source of information as well as a trusted advisor. The OLC Quality Scorecard is a one of the major tools used to evaluate and improve online learning programs and has been adopted by hundreds of institutions.

How wide is the degree completion gap between economically privileged and low-income students?

The “Indicators of Equity Report” highlights that 77% of students from the wealthiest families currently earn bachelor’s degrees by age 24, in contrast to only 9% of students from the lowest-income families. In the last 35 years, the number of wealthy students obtaining bachelor’s degrees has grown dramatically (from 44% to 77%), but for low-income students it has only inched up three percentage points (from 6% to 9%).

One area identified as a particular barrier to these students’ success is general education courses usually taken during the first or second year of college. OLC’s grant-funded initiatives seek to address this specific area.

What does this grant mean for OLC and its community?

This grant is in keeping with the vision of OLC to set the global standard in online learning. It will help us advance a number of OLC’s key initiatives intended to showcase exemplary practices in today’s higher education institutions and accelerate innovation.    

 What is the size/value of the grant?

The grant is valued at $2.5 million for three years.

What does OLC intend to do with the grant funding?

The grant funds will be used to accelerate two key OLC initiatives:

  1. Prize Competition. Recognizing and rewarding exemplar institutions and faculty teams in their effective use of digital courseware. Specifically, the grant will fund a new prize competition – the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize, which is accompanied by a meaningful monetary reward.
  2. OLC Quality Scorecard Expansion. Evolving and expanding the OLC Quality Scorecard suite to include a digital courseware ancillary scorecard.

How does OLC plan to expand the Quality Scorecard?

OLC will expand the Quality Scorecard suite with a next-generation digital courseware ancillary scorecard that will include the steps needed to identify, measure and quantify elements that define quality within an online education program, with a focus on attributes which result in a positive impact on student success, especially for students from minority, first-generation, low-income or other disadvantaged backgrounds.

OLC will announce specific plans for evolving and expanding the Quality Scorecard in 2016.

What is digital courseware?

Digital courseware refers to adaptive digital learning tools, including software that supports student learning such as games, apps and personalized content.

Why is adoption of digital courseware important?

There is a widening gap in degree attainment between economically privileged and low-income students. Increasing adoption of digital courseware and facilitating innovation are among the critical influences required to help close this gap.

Next-generation digital courseware, which is based on the science of learning and best practices in user experience (UX) design, has been shown to improve student learning outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Can you provide examples of next-generation digital courseware?

Examples of next-generation digital courseware include:

  • Smart Sparrow, a software platform that allows you to create your own adaptive lessons.
  • Lumen Learning, whose courseware helps improve educational access, affordability and student success, simultaneously.
  • Acrobatiq, course architecture that enables the collection of rich student learning performance data – in real time – so educators at all levels can see “at a glance” predictive learning analytics.
  • Rice University OpenStax, offering students free textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for most courses.
  • CogBooks’ adaptive courseware provides students with real-time support by intelligently personalizing the material as they progress while giving instructors deep insight into each student’s activities and capabilities.

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