Breakthrough Degree Programs

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) is a program that wants to accelerate educational innovation through applied technology. Their goals include showing dramatic improvement in college readiness and completion in the United States. They provide investment capital to expand the use of proven and emerging learning technologies, for collecting and sharing evidence of what works, and fostering a community of innovators and adopters.

How do they define a “Breakthrough Degree Program”? These are programs that generally depart from the higher education’s structures with which we are familiar. They question how we typically use technology (preferring to allow faster progress to a degree via personalized pathways or competency-based learning), tuitions (preferring more affordable costs), how course time is used and measured, and new roles
for students and those who support students.

At the website, you can read more about their work and their partnerships. Those partnerships provide the investment capital - and sometimes are the reason that their ideas are looked at with some suspicion by educators.  Their Executive Committee, comprised of EDUCAUSE, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, guides the project’s overall efforts. (EDUCAUSE has management and fiduciary responsibility for the program.)

Examples of what a “Breakthrough Degree Program” can look like can bee seen in Southern New Hampshire’s "College for America," Northern Arizona University’s "Personalized Learning Program, and programs at Rio Salado College. These programs address alternatives like subscription models for tuition with one low-cost, all-inclusive rate. They also experiment with college-level learning being driven by and built upon the experiences and competencies that students bring with them. Some focus on support systems that use technology but rely on advisors, peer mentors, coaches, and instructors.

NGLC also likes to support K-16 partnerships tying postsecondary work to the being done in K-12 (see iNACOL and CCSSO) since college readiness and college completion are both big issues on campuses and appear to be intertwined.


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