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Last fall, the Gates Foundation announced its Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative, a multi-year project to help support programs that boost college preparedness and college completion.

The first round of grants - $20 million worth - were aimed at developing tools for higher education. Applicants had to address one of four challenges: open courseware, blended learning, learning analytics, and better engagement in online learning.

The list of the 47 finalists of the first wave of grants is now posted to the Next Generation Learning website. (No details of how many applications were received.)

The list contains some projects I'm familiar with (for whatever that's worth): Knewton's partnership with Arizona State University to deliver personalized math remediation, for example, and the Georgia Tech and Emory University efforts to built and expand OpenStudy.

But there are plenty of new ideas and projects here, including quite a number from community colleges, a key area to target both college readiness and completion efforts, I'd contend, as their enrollment rates are up but graduation rates are down. Interestingly, of the 47 winners, only three projects mention mobile and eleven mention OCW. Blended learning seems to be the most common type of program funded (if my CTRL+F calculations are correct).

It's hard for me to read the summaries of grant applications and say much other than wow, what a dull genre of writing that is. Hopefully the outcomes from this initiative are substantially more awesome.

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Audrey Watters


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