Blended Learning and Experimental Higher-Ed Models Awarded NGLC Grants


Next Generation Learning Challenges has completed its third wave investment wave, providing thirteen programs with a total of $4.5 million in grants. Indirectly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NGLC aims to reduce high school drop-out, bolster college readiness, and support the use of technological innovation in educational systems. The beneficiaries include numerous schools working with blended learning models as well as higher education institutions experimenting with career-based curriculum and alternative tuition models.

Returning to a paper published by the Innosight Institute, blended learning is defined as “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace … and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.”

(It is also interesting to note how well the blended learning model is paired with the concept of the flipped classroom. In both models, learning takes place both online and in the school, challenging the traditional method of classroom instruction, homework, classroom instruction, homework, and so on.)

A full list and description of the grantees reveals that the blended learning model is an attractive concept to investors, foundations, and initiatives like the NGLC and others such as the Charter School Growth Fund. According to the CSGF’s site, the organization is investing 20% of its approximately $30 million fund in a new wave of high-performing charter operators designing next generation blended school models. 

The NGLC’s latest round of K-12 and higher education grantees include:

  • Academy 21 at Franklin Central Supervisory Union (VT)—This early college high school model focuses on customized pathways for students that prepare for college and careers.
  • Cornerstone Charter Schools (MI)—This program is opening Cornerstone Health High School, which will prepare Detroit students for colleges and careers in healthcare.
  • Da Vinci Schools (CA)—These Los Angeles-based Da Vinci Schools integrate blended learning, early college, and real world experiences with project-based charter school learning.
  • Education Achievement Authority (MI)—Students in this program are organized by instructional level rather than grade level and “progress via mastery rather than seat time.”
  • Match Education (MA)—Match Education operates charter schools for low-income students in Boston and includes schools for training teachers.
  • Schools for the Future (MI)—A college prep model designed for youth who perform significantly below grade level in reading and math proficiency, the SFF includes blended learning and real-time student performance analytics. They also dabble in learning opportunities through mobile technology. Bring Your Own Device!
  • Summit Public Schools (CA)—Summit Public Schools is a California-based charter management organization that is designing a next generation competency-based school model for grades 6 to 12.
  • Venture Academies (MN)—This Minneapolis-based organization focuses on personalized and mastery-based learning, accelerated college credit attainment, and cultivation of entrepreneurial leadership.

Interesting higher education grantees:

  • New Charter University—This higher ed model will be the subject of an NGLC-funded research project comparing students enrolled entirely online versus those who attend the brick-and-mortar institution.
  • Northern Arizona University—NAU is developing what it calls a “Personalized Learning Division,” where students will pay tuition based on the length of time they take to complete courses and demonstrate competency. An interesting morph of the higher ed model.
  • Southern New Hampshire University—This school is pioneering the Pathways Project, which will be organized by an individualized “Knowledge Map” that acknowledges what students already know and reflects what employers need. Outstanding!
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board—The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, South Texas College, and Texas A&M University-Commerce will offer a technology-enabled Bachelor of Applied Sciences with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

High schools and charter schools which focus on blended learning and integrating technology! Colleges and universities dabbling in programs which point people directly toward careers and alternative tuition models! The fact that these ambitious and experimental models have attracted the funding of investors provides us with a number of exciting developments to watch for in the future.