Next Generation Learning Challenges: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) is largely backed by the Gates Foundation, and is driven by innovation in areas such as competency-based learning and innovative incorporation of technology to improve student outcomes in high school graduation and college readiness and completion. Its four program areas are focused on K-12 and university education. For higher ed fundraisers, NGLC's key programs are Higher Education Breakthrough Models and Higher Education Tech Innovation. 

IP TAKE: NGLC’s guiding principles remain consistent, but its particular funding priorities appear to shift regularly. Check the Grants Opportunities page or sign up for the network’s newsletter to stay on top of new grant announcements.

PROFILE: Next Generation Learning Challenges describes itself as “a network of educators, innovators, technologists, and philanthropic foundations” focused on “tapping the potential of technology to improve college readiness and completion, particularly for low-income young adults.” Funded mainly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NGLC’s many partners include heavy hitters in the education world, including the Dell and Broad foundations.

For higher ed grantseekers, NGLC’s first main funding stream, Higher Education Breakthrough Models, seeks out exactly what it sounds like: innovative educational models among postsecondary educational institutions to maintain a curriculum that is of "high quality," yet is also personalized and economical. Within this broad definition, technology was a major focus. The NGLC's “Breakthrough Models for College Completion,” which began in late 2011, sought to support "highly engaging, technology-enabled learning pathways that prepare all students—but especially low-income students and students of color—for economic, social, and civic success." This launch was presented within the overarching goal of showing that "learning science, technology, policy, and organizational processes" can be aligned to provide students with associate or bachelor's degrees at a cost of only $5,000 per student per year.

NGLC also offers grants under its Higher Education Tech Innovation program. Higher Education Tech Innovation grants have the goal of “scaling the adoption of open course courseware, blended learning programs, learning analytics, and tech-enabled deeper learning to help students pass courses and get degrees.” Its first funding round was announced in 2010. Titled "Building Blocks for College Completion," this round of grantmaking emphasized “scaling tech-enabled innovations across institutions of higher education” in order to “improve course completion, persistence, and ultimately college completion, especially for low-income students.”

Separately, the NGLC’s commitment to K-12 education breaks down along similar lines, with programs in both Breakthrough Models (focused on making learning more personalized, competency-based, engaging, and transparent while lowering the achievement gap and ensuring college readiness), and Tech Innovation, which looks toward “scaling the adoption of open course courseware, blended learning programs, learning analytics, and tech-enabled deeper learning to help students pass courses and get degrees.”

Teaching, learning and assessment strategies NGLC supports are varied and include project-based, experiential, game-based, and competency-based learning, as well as “design thinking,” the use of data analytics in evaluating student performance, and more. Take a look at the NGLC Grant Recipients interactive map for more information about particular awardees.

Keep in mind that while the NGLC’s guiding principles remain consistent, its specific funding projects appear to change somewhat frequently, so it is important to keep up to date on open grant opportunities, either by visiting the site directly or by signing up for their newsletter.


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