Rewarding Innovation for Improving Student Success


Karen L. Pedersen, Ph.D., Chief Knowledge Officer, Online Learning Consortium

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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%), according to a 2015 Pell Institute Report.

Disparity in degree attainment rates grows wider every year. OLC recognizes the need to close this gap, and we’re taking steps to encourage innovation and adoption of next-generation digital courseware to address this. In this effort, we’re tapping our community of leaders, experts, researchers and practitioners.  

If you are using next-generation digital courseware in a way that is having a measurable impact on student success, particularly in gateway courses focused on disadvantaged groups, OLC wants to hear about it. And we’d like to share your success with our community in order to help additional institutions realize the benefits and assist them with their adoption of courseware for student success for disadvantaged groups.

Announcing the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize

OLC is launching a new prize competition – the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize – 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.

The new prize competition, with its distinct focus on digital courseware, will complement the annual OLC Awards, which offer recognition of excellence in online teaching and learning across a range of categories, such as leadership, faculty development, research and overall excellence.

The inaugural OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize competition will open in early 2016, with a call for applicants in two prize categories:

  • The OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize: Faculty-Led Team, a $10,000 prize, to be awarded to up to 10 faculty teams per year that have excelled in advancing and adopting next-generation digital courseware with a strong pedagogical focus and a sustained impact on student success in gateway courses.
  • The OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize: Institution, a $100,000 prize, to be awarded to up to three institutions per year that have showcased sustained innovation in the adoption and application of next-generation digital courseware on a broader scale that has resulted in improved student success in gateway courses among underserved student groups.

Read more details in today’s press release. We’ll share more information in January, including application criteria and the competition rubric.

We look forward to shining the spotlight on your successful approaches using digital courseware so that together we can improve student success for underserved groups and ultimately close the degree attainment gap.

About the Author

Karen L. Pedersen, Ph.D., Chief Knowledge Officer, Online Learning Consortium


Dr. Karen Pedersen was recently selected as the Chief Knowledge Officer for the Online Learning Consortium. In this role, she has responsibility to gather, curate and leverage the intellectual capital created by and disseminated through the organization to create and enhance services and resources provided to constituents.

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