White House: How should universities use technology?

Following two high-profile education events organized by the White House, the Obama administration is asking institutions for their input on technology and college affordability.

whiteSecretary of Education Arne Duncan released a notice earlier this month inviting colleges and universities that participate in student assistance programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to propose ideas for new financial aid experiments.

“The secretary is particularly interested in experiments that will improve student persistence and academic success, result in shorter time to degree, and reduce student loan indebtedness,” the Department of Education said.

The department will then design its own experiments based on the suggestions, before evaluating their effectiveness. Approved experiments will be announced later this year, and institutions will be invited to participate in them.

Colleges and universities have until Jan. 31 to submit their ideas.

Meanwhile, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is requesting public comments to help inform any developing policies related to educational technology, with a specific focus on improving learning outcomes.

The deadline for those comments is March 7.

“This Request for Information offers the opportunity for interested individuals and organizations to identify public and private actions that have the potential to accelerate the development, rigorous evaluation, and widespread adoption of high-impact learning technologies,” the office said.

The Obama administration has shown a marked interest in educational technology in the past year.

“We want to encourage more colleges to embrace innovative new ways to prepare our students for a 21st century economy and maintain a high level of quality without breaking the bank,” the president said in August, before listing some ed-tech examples that included competency-based learning at Southern New Hampshire University, online courses at Arizona State University, and Georgia Tech’s MOOC-like master’s degree program.

An infographic released by the administration in December discusses the benefits of massive open online courses (MOOCs), online education, and more flexible accrediting bodies. The second annual White House Datapalooza gathered more than 600 educators, data scientists, and policy-makers to discuss the role of data in education.

And ed-tech factored into many of the commitments made by those attending the White House’s higher education summit last week.

“We’ve all got a role to play,” Obama said during the summit. “So I’m going to spend the next three years as president playing mine. And I look forward to working with you on the same team to make this happen.”

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