Educause, a nonprofit association of information technology leaders and professionals in higher education, has previously partnered up with the Gates Foundation to develop the first college degree priced at $5,000 or less. Its website features higher education institutions that are pushing the boundaries on what post-secondary education looks like with new models and approaches to this very traditional segment of the education sector.
Now Educause is teaming up with Gates on its Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) Initiative to seed and launch new “breakthrough schools” through regional competitive grant programs in places like New Orleans, Colorado, New England, and Oakland, California, to name a few. These regional funds initially focused on Washington, D.C. and Colorado but have expanded to the four regions mentioned above in 2014.
The focus here is the acceleration of student achievement through personalized, mastery-based, blended learning models. Other notable funders for NGLC include the Broad Foundation and the Dell Foundation. Educause has also received early support (just over $2 million) from the Hewlett Foundation as they have gained steam since 2010 and have been taken under Gates’ wing increasingly so since then.
Two of the major goals for NGLC include encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation at all levels of the education sector along with fostering more alignment between key partners in the system. Educause has a vested interest in provoking similar kinds of innovation in the K-12 sector as it focuses its energy on transforming higher education through innovation in information technology. Operating as a membership organization for over 2,300 higher education institutions, Educause is lending its considerable expertise as Gates and other funders push K-12 schools to move towards mastery-based models and more personalized instruction.
Big picture: The idea of one seamless continuum for K-16 education that is strongly supported by recent advances in digital technology is quite attractive to a funder like Gates and organizations like Educause. In this light, the increasingly strong partnership over the past few years has been mutually beneficial and makes complete sense. The joint thought leadership and resources in this area are formidable (perhaps unmatched) and the organizations are clearly planting seeds that will bear ripe fruit in the near future.