Community Colleges Get Gift of Millions for Online Education

While Congress is still weighing legislation that could put $500-million into the development of open, online courses, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has stepped up to the plate. The charity is giving $12.9-million to advance technology at community colleges, improving virtual learning environments for both students and teachers.

The major goal is to bolster the academic success of students who arrive at community colleges lacking study skills, and who are under a lot of pressure to balance studying with demands of family and work. Ideally, new technologies will be intergrated into teaching and course-delivery systems, rather than added as as afterthought.

Here’s who got what:

A consortium, Global Skills for College Completion, got $3.6-million to create ways to teach math and writing skills using social media and interactive technology. The consortium is a collaboration between the League for Innovation in the Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Knowledge in the Public Interest, and the Community College Research Center.

Five-million dollars went to the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education to produce freely available mathematics course material. The goal is to boost the number of students who meet mathematics standards for admittance to good college programs. People can access the material through a Web site.

Also in math, the National Center for Academic Transformation got $1.8-million to help community colleges rework teaching methods in developmental math courses.

Finally, Carnegie Mellon University’s Community College Open Learning Initiative received $2.5-million to help other institutions develop Web-based open-learning environments for certain courses. The environments will be developed by cognitive scientists, human-computer interaction experts, software engineers, and faculty members with expertise in particular subjects from over 40 community colleges across the country.

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