Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a 20-million dollar grant to fund new online learning technologies for higher education. The project is called Next Generation Learning Challenges and is being managed by the non-profit educational technology organization, Educause. The program is a response to low graduation rates in higher education, especially at community colleges and other two-year institutions. The Next Generation Learning Challenges web site frames the problem and project objectives this way:
"Today, too few students are ready for college: Only 70% of high school students will graduate, and of those 50% are ill-equipped for success in college. Of those that do attempt college only half will ever earn a degree. For low-income students, graduation rates are even lower, hovering at a mere 25%.
Recognizing the untapped potential of technology to drive dramatic gains in both college readiness and completion, Next Generation Learning Challenges will identify, improve, and scale solutions and will stimulate adoption of the many ways technology can deepen, accelerate, and support learning (Next Generation Learning Challenge: The Program)."
For now, the focus is on higher education but next year, Gates hopes to expand to the project to include K-12 initiatives. In a press release, the Gates foundation confirmed this grant would be a multi-year commitment. The Gates Foundation see the gift as "catalytic" and hopes it will inspire others to commit to improving education through technology.
According the Wall Street Journal, the project will dole out grants ranging from $250,000 to $750,000. The project opens for proposals on October 25th. More information can be found here.