New Report: Insights on the Work of NGLC Deeper Learning Postsecondary Grantees

Deeper learning, It’s right up there with motherhood and apple pie on the virtue scale. But what does this appealing term actually connote? And how do those who see it as a critical component of next generation learning know whether or not it has occurred? 

They may not have been working from the same playbook on deeper learning, but seven grantees in NGLC’s first wave of investment, “Building Blocks for College Completion,” set forth to scale innovations designed to help students achieve it. The just-released report “Innovations Designed for Deeper Learning in Higher Education,” illuminates key results of grantees’ efforts, which impacted nearly 10,000 students at more than 100 institutions over the 2011-2013 grant period. If you’re interested in innovation that takes advantage of technology’s potential to improve deeper learning and engagement, you’ll want to read it.

NGLC embraces the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s definition of deeper learning, which translates to students “using their knowledge and skills in a way that prepares them for real life.”

According to this definition, deeper learning occurs when students are able not only to master academic content but also to combine that mastery with critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration with others, effective communication, self-direction in their learning, and an academic mindset. The grantees profiled in NGLC’s new report used technology-enabled innovations to work toward realization of these ends.

Report author Andrea Venezia is associate director of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at California State University, Sacramento. She begins with an analysis of the potential of deeper learning and she reviews NGLC’s challenge, which seven projects accepted. Drawing upon grant recipient interviews and reports, as well as SRI International’s research into the Building Blocks projects, she characterizes the projects as taking one of three broad approaches: supplementing existing courses, supporting the adoption of blended learning, and completely redesigning a course. 

When it came to demonstration of improvement in student learning, complete course redesign was the clear winner among these approaches, with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s U-Pace approach showing statistically significant effects in improving student outcomes.

Now you know that complete course redesign may be the most promising path (at least of those tried by NGLC grantees, that is) to improving deeper learning, but you also know that completely redesigning a college course is no easy feat. To help you anticipate the difficulties of scaling new innovations, the report also shares challenges that the grantees encountered, including:

  • difficulties in measuring and assessing deeper learning,
  • inadequate capacity and support,
  • attainment of broad faculty engagement,
  • and variability in the ways in which faculty incorporated innovations into their own pedagogical practices. 

Venezia draws succinct conclusions about what these lessons portend for the future of technology-enabled innovation to increase deeper learning and engagement . You’ll want to bookmark the resources about deeper learning and grantees’ publications that wrap up the report.

Download Innovations Designed for Deeper Learning in Higher Education now.

This is the third in NGLC’s series of reports on the Building Blocks projects by their challenge areas; earlier reports include “Building Blocks for College Completion: Blended Learning” (2012) and “Building Blocks for College Completion: Learning Analytics” (2013).

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