1. What is Next Generation Learning Challenges?

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) is a unique collaboration among philanthropic foundations, educators, innovators, and technologists. We’re focused on addressing the barriers to educational innovation by tapping the potential of technology to improve college readiness and completion, particularly for low-income young adults. This goal requires the fundamental transformation of education practices, policies, and structures; incremental change will not suffice. 

At the national level, NGLC has awarded grants in four areas: K-12 Breakthrough Models, Higher Ed Breakthrough Models, K-12 Tech Innovation, and Higher Ed Tech Innovation. In addition to grants, NGLC seeks to spark dialogue, build a community of innovation, and accelerate the adoption of solutions that work through resources, online tools, and EDUCAUSE Institute programs designed to catalyze new ideas and foster solutions that span institutions and accelerate student success.

2. What is “next generation learning?”

From a student’s perspective, next generation learning is…
  • Personalized to the ways I learn best
  • Flexible so that I can try different ways to learn
  • Interactive and engaging so that I participate in the learning
  • Relevant to the life I’d like to lead
  • Organized around my own progress against goals I understand
  • Constantly informed by different ways of demonstrating and measuring my progress
  • Collaborative with teachers and peers, unlimited by proximity
  • Agile and supportive when I need extra help
  • Challenging but achievable, with opportunities to become expert in an area of interest
  • Available to me as much as it is to every other student
Next generation learning will take root more broadly than it is today when we focus on six dimensions—define, measure, design, implement, enable, scale. Only then will next generation learning help more students complete high school and college, at a reasonable cost. See our Pathway to Possibility white paper to learn more about NGLC’s perspective on next generation learning.

3. How is Next Generation Learning Challenge unique?

NGLC focuses on technology-enabled solutions to support personalized learning and improve outcomes for students in both K-12 and higher education. In its first waves of investment, NGLC focused on scaling proven solutions to wider adoption. In recent work, the initiative has sought to develop whole school and degree program breakthrough models.

4. Specifically, what does NGLC hope to accomplish?

Next Generation Learning Challenges seeks to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States. NGLC will accomplish this by identifying proven and emerging technology-enabled solutions, strategies, and new models for K-12 and higher education. While the need is greatest among low-income young adults, these solutions should be applicable to all institutions and students. NGLC spans K-12 and higher education because issues of college readiness and completion are interconnected.

5. How is NGLC funded?

Grants, programs, and the operation of NGLC are supported through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. NGLC has also received financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

6. Is this program only about technology?

No. Technology is an important tool that has the potential to increase student achievement through personalized models of teaching that deepen learning and engagement, as well as lower costs. We must use the power of technology to transform education, particularly for those who need it most. Next Generation Learning Challenges will harness this potential by identifying and expanding effective technology-enabled learning solutions to reach more students, with the goal of improving college readiness and completion. However, NGLC understands that technology itself is not the solution. We are committed to seeking innovative working models which harness active pedagogies and deliver results in deeper learning outcomes, regardless of whether or how they use technology. We’re not pursuing any one kind of hardware, software, or online solution. NGLC’s focus is on effectiveness rather than a specific technology.

7. What are the primary components of the program?

Next Generation Learning Challenges is structured to provide investment capital, create evidence and communities of innovators, and accelerate adoption. Grants provide investment capital for advancing technology-enabled solutions and innovative new models for educational delivery. However, it is imperative that the community also develop and share evidence on which others can build. Thus, evaluation of individual projects as well as of the overall program are part of NGLC. Likewise, NGLC seeks to accelerate adoption of effective models by engaging individuals, disciplines, and institutions in dialogue, planning, and implementation.

8. Who will own the content created by NGLC, and how will that content be shared?

All content contributed to NGLC—from website postings to information generated by grantees—will be available to the community under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license, unless otherwise noted. This open license allows community-generated content to move in and out of the site with ease. Grantees are encouraged to make other supporting technology available under open-source licenses.

9. What educational levels does NGLC focus on?

Because NGLC is focused on college readiness as well as completion, secondary and postsecondary education (grades 6-16) are the focus of our work. In the Regional Funds for Breakthrough Schools effort, we also support new learning models in grades K-5. Although the institutional, systems, and policy context differs and the age of the learners varies, the problems facing students and educators in K-12 and higher education are similar. NGLC has observed similarities in some of the obstacles and the solutions to implementing next generation learning as well; there is much to learn from efforts in both systems of education.

10. The date for awarding launch grants is in 2016. Does this mean I cannot apply for a launch grant for this year?

We expect schools to first apply for planning grants and begin piloting parts of their long term vision for a year in order make an authentic case for receiving a larger launch grant. If your school has already been planning to adopt personalized learning and has been piloting practices across all the Common Expectations over the past year, we will consider making a launch grant available in 2015. This decision will be made on a case by case basis, and after a thorough evaluation of your school's work to date.