Many have by now seen that the Gates Foundation is launching what it is calling “NextGen Learning Challenges,” with the aim of improving college readiness and college completion in the United States “through the applied use of technology and digital media.” An overview of the effort, its goals, partners, and more is here.

The Foundation is currently in the midst of a six-week comment period—a chance for people to chime in to provide input and ideas to help shape the efforts in the ways that can have maximum impact. From my conversations with people at the Foundation, it is clear that they are eager for this input to help shape the initiatives, so this is a really unique opportunity to play a meaningful role. The section for commenting is here.

The challenges aim to provide grants to innovators, build evidence of what works, and foster a community of professionals committed to helping students and young adults prepare for college and successfully complete their postsecondary educations.

You’ll see that the challenges fall under four categories: open core courseware, blended learning, web 2.0 engagement, and learning analytics. There is also a section for general comments on the initiative, and although the first wave will focus on postsecondary, future challenges will focus on high school—and to that end, there is a separate section at the bottom devoted to “Future Challenges, Focused on Grades 9-12” where some early discussions are already under way.

I’m also encouraged that the Foundation has chosen some great partners to help with this effort, in particular iNACOL, but also EDUCAUSE, the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, and CCSSO, as well as the Hewlett Foundation.

So if you believe, as the Gates Foundation has said it does in announcing this effort, that “technology can be a key tool for making learning more flexible, engaging, and affordable” and that “we must use its power to transform education, particularly for those who need it most” then now is a good time to get involved to help shape the efforts. The Foundation is looking to harness the energies of people in and outside of education—from entrepreneurs to educators; from technologists to higher education leaders; and from business leaders to the people who ultimately matter the most, students.


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.