Ed-tech grants target remedial college courses

Carnegie Mellon University’s Community College Open Learning Initiative will receive $2.5 million for the development of web-based open learning platforms for “gatekeeper courses,” or introductory-level classes that students must pass to enter a field of study. (See “Program goes beyond open course model.”)

With community college classrooms filling up during the current economic downturn, these gatekeeper courses are more popular than ever, and many students are left on lengthy waiting lists, forced to delay their education.

The New York-based National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) will get $1.8 million to help community colleges redesign remedial math classes that lack sufficient technology integration. Previous course redesigns at NCAT partner institutions have resulted in an average 51-percent increase in course completions and an average 37-percent reduction in instructional costs.

“We are targeting the best new ideas that hold the greatest promise for improving the odds for low-income young adult learners,” said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success, and special initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The power of technology is its ability to connect people, foster collaboration, empower learners and teachers, and challenge the status quo.”

College officials said they’ve always expected adults returning to school to require remedial classes, but an old phenomenon is becoming an escalating problem: Recent high school graduates coming to campus often lack basic skills in algebra.

“Remedial math courses are always one of the very large programs in community colleges,” said Boggs, of the American Association of Community Colleges. “We’re getting more students in remedial courses … because math is one of the most prominent obstacles for student success. It’s not something [adult learners] tend to recall as easily as other subjects.”


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

National Center for Academic Transformation

American Association of Community Colleges