New initiative to study MOOCs with Gates Foundation grants

Grant applicants could be awarded up to $25,000.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent millions of dollars helping to bolster non-profit massive open online course (MOOC) providers like Khan Academy and edX. Now, they’re putting $400,000 toward the much-hyped technology in an effort to answer the question: are MOOCs actually effective?

Called the MOOC Research Initiative, the project aims to address what the foundation refers to as a “research gap” by examining MOOCs and the impact they have on teachers, students and education in general.

“To date, the impact of MOOCs has been largely disseminated through press releases and university reports,” the project’s co-founder, George Siemens, said in a blog post on the project’s web site. “The peer-reviewed research on MOOCs has been minimal. The proliferation of MOOCs in higher education requires a concerted and urgent research agenda.”…Read More

University research will evaluate physical data to gauge teacher effectiveness

GSR technology could give an advantage to 'tyrannical' teachers, Ravitch says.

A student’s physical reaction to a classroom lesson soon could be used to judge how successful—or unsuccessful—an educator is in keeping students engaged.

Researchers and Clemson University received a nearly $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November to study Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets, which house sensors that measure a student’s physical reaction to learning—such as increased sweating—and uses the data as a way to grade an educator’s performance.

Wireless sensors produce readouts showing whether students are alert, anxious, bored, or excited in the classroom, and as Clemson researchers determine the reliability of this experimental technological gauge, many in education are skeptical of the GSR bracelets as a mainstream classroom tool.…Read More

Imagine a $500,000 Gates Foundation grant to Harvard

Why would the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s richest foundation, hand over a $500,000 grant to Harvard, the world’s wealthiest university? Asks the Washington Post. It turns out that Harvard, in July, was given a $500,000 grant from Gates, which has its financial tentacles deep in the education world and beyond, to do the following, according to the foundation’s Web site: “to re-imagine the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the future.”

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Gates Foundation launches $20 million program to expand technology use

The initiative will fund practices that help prepare students for college completion.
The initiative will fund practices that help prepare students for college completion.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Oct. 11 announced the Next Generation Learning Challenges, a collaborative, multi-year initiative that aims to help dramatically improve college readiness and college completion in the United States through the use of technology tools and educational technology. The program will award grants to organizations and innovators to expand promising technology tools to more students, teachers, and schools. It is led by the nonprofit EDUCAUSE, which works to advance higher education through the use of information technology.

Next Generation Learning Challenges released the first of a series of requests for proposals (RFPs) on Oct. 11 to solicit funding proposals for technology applications that can improve postsecondary education. This round of funding will total up to $20 million, including grants that range from $250,000 to $750,000. Applicants with top-rated proposals will receive funds to expand their programs and demonstrate effectiveness in serving larger numbers of students. Proposals are due Nov. 19, 2010; winners are expected to be announced by March 31, 2011.

“American education has been the best in the world, but we’re falling below our own high standards of excellence for high school and college attainment,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re living in a tremendous age of innovation. We should harness new technologies and innovation to help all students get the education they need to succeed.”…Read More