October 18, 2015
Orlando, Fla.— The Online Learning Consortium, in a move to encourage professors to develop and use digital courseware, will offer new prizes for faculty-led teams that advance and adopt sophisticated online courses with “a strong pedagogical focus and a sustained impact on student success in gateway courses,” the organization announced at its conference here last week.
The organization, formerly known as the Sloan Consortium, said it would award up to 10 prizes of $10,000 each to the faculty teams, beginning in 2016. It will also provide up to three prizes of $100,000 each, it said, to institutions that showcase sustained innovation “on a broader scale” in the use of the courses.
The prize money comes from a $2.5-million grant to the consortium from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation has already put more than $20 million into grants to seven organizations and their 18 college partners to develop digital courseware that uses adaptive-learning techniques and other approaches. The goal of that effort is to create general-education courses that would be more engaging to students, particularly first-generation college students, than some of the standardized course materials now in use at many colleges.
Jason Palmer, an official at the Gates Foundation, said it had chosen the Online Learning Consortium to make the awards because of its expertise in the field. The foundation followed a similar approach with grants for colleges working with data analytics to help students, for example, which were recently awarded through Educause.
Consortium officials said they expected to announce the criteria for the new digital-courseware prizes by December. The organization plans to use the rest of the $2.5 million to create a new element for its Quality Scorecard that would be focused on digital courseware.