08 Apr 2011

OU project awarded $750,000 to improve US college completion rates

An international project that targets problems in learning mathematics in order to boost completion rates in US colleges has won a $750,000 award to help pilot its work.

The OU’s Open Learning: Bridge to Success (B2S) project, which offers free and open content to break down barriers to learn, has been awarded the grant through the first wave of the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) programme.

NGLC is led by EDUCAUSE – a non-profit organisation that helps to develop the use of information technology in higher education. The project was selected from a field of more than 600 pre-proposals and 50 finalists.

B2S is led by the OU in partnership with a consortium of institutions, including Anne Arundel Community College, the University of Maryland University College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which will be piloted in at least 10 US colleges until June 2012. B2S will also offer open access so anyone can use it.

The award will help the project to address the problem of students in US community colleges dropping out of developmental mathematics courses.

Statistics show that roughly 60 per cent of first-year college students in the US are required to take at least one development course, however less than one quarter go on to earn a certificate or degree.

Furthermore, among more than 250,000 students in the US who required the most mathematics remediation, only 16 per cent completed the course requirements in three years, and less than 10 per cent of those passed a college-level mathematics course within that period.

The OU project will use Open Educational Resources (including OpenLearn and Openings material) to provide an online ‘safety net’ for developmental maths, enabling these students to get up to speed with their learning and therefore successfully complete their studies.

The project aims to reach 750 students directly through the pilot, but also expects its open education learning materials to reach as many as 30,000 people globally in the next year.

It also provides a great research opportunity for the OU to analyse the impact its OER work has on completion rates in the US.

OU Pro-Vice-Chancellor Denise Kirkpatrick said: “We are thrilled that the OU has been successful in the Gates Next Generation Learning Challenge. Getting students ready for college and ensuring they complete their course is a really big challenge in the US. Our project will provide open access to high quality education materials in order to increase the number of adults who are not only prepared to enroll in US colleges, but who also go on to pursue a degree or professional qualification.

“It is designed to provide a safety net to help students get up to speed with their learning and successfully complete their studies instead of dropping out. We hope to use the findings from the project to identify how we can bring measurable impact to the way we use open education resources for students in the UK.”

Editors notes

1. NGLC is led by EDUCAUSE – a non-profit organisation that helps to develop the use of information technology in higher education − in partnership with the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It was set up to establish ways of using technology to improve college completion rates in the United States.

2. Next Generation Learning Challenges
NGLC is a collaborative, multi-year grant programme aimed at dramatically increasing college readiness and completion through applied technology. Grant money will be issued in multiple funding "waves" launched approximately every 6 to 12 months. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helped design the NGLC, and fund the initiative.
For further information, see link right.

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