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Free Online Classes to Expand With Gates Foundation Grants



Student taking free online classes

You may soon have more access to free online classes through a new program supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants.

The new “Next Gen Learning Challenges” initiative aims to increase the level of college education among Americans, using technology to improve college readiness and completion, especially among low-income young adults. This is needed because 64 percent of jobs by 2018 will require college degrees—yet only about 30 percent of Americans have college degrees.

Nonprofit education research firm Educause is spearheading the program, with the Gates Foundation providing funding for grants and research. Other partners include the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Four learning challenges are being proposed for the first wave of grant funding. The first challenge is Open Core Courseware (free online college classes). The Next Gen goal: to expand public access to free, high quality online courses for developmental and general education.

Other challenges in addition to free online university courses are: Web 2.0 engagement, blended learning, and learning analytics.

The Next Gen project is seeking comment about these four challenges through its website. In fall 2010, more information about how to obtain Gates Foundation grants to develop free online classes will be released.


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