The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences is dedicating $10 million in Federal funding for the creation of a research center that aims to address inequities in higher education online learning.

The funding was awarded to the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teachers College and SRI Education, a research institute. CCRC and SRI will work with Achieving the Dream – a nonprofit focused on championing evidence-based institutional improvement – and a network of more than 300 colleges. The center will conduct research on how educational technology and instructional strategies can bolster students’ skills for managing their own learning.

The center is also partnering with nine broad-access colleges, which are community colleges and other schools that accept more than 70 percent of applicants. The broad-access colleges are Bunker Hill Community College in Massachusetts, Calbright College in California, Macomb Community College in Michigan, Odessa College in Texas, Palm Beach State College in Florida, Portland State University in Oregon, Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, Virginia State University, and Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina.

According to the Department of Education, the research goals of the center are to:

  • Generate new knowledge about how faculty can effectively use technology features and instructional practices in online STEM courses to create a positive feedback loop for students;
  • Shed light on institutional policies and practices and instructional environments needed to support a coherent, intentional, and sustainable approach to helping students build self-directed learning skills across their coursework;
  • Develop and pilot a technology-enabled, skills development model that will use technology features already widely available in learning management systems, adaptive courseware, and mobile apps to deliver instruction on these skills; and
  • Use research findings to inform the development of a rich, interactive toolkit to support institutions and faculty as they implement self-directed learning skills instruction at scale in online programs.

In addition to its research activities, the center will provide national leadership and capacity-building activities for postsecondary teaching and learning.

The center will be led by Deborah Jonas, director of SRI’s Center for Education Research & Innovation, and Nikki Edgecombe, CCRC senior research scholar and professor of education policy and social analysis at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

“Faculty and student input will help shape the center’s research and guide us in sharing findings in ways that strengthen teaching and learning,” said Jonas. “When we involve faculty and students from the beginning, we better understand how we can help make effective practices easier for instructors to adopt.”

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