LJAF’s New Initiatives and Education teams are working to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live or attend school, can obtain a high-quality education. Our grantees are creating cutting-edge resources, supporting blended learning schools, and developing innovative online platforms.
One such tool is a personalized learning assistant (PLA), capable of delivering customized instruction to every student. Currently being developed by a team of scientists, engineers, and human learning experts at Rice University, the PLA represents a quantum leap beyond the traditional printed textbooks being used in today’s K-12 classrooms. The PLA, which can be accessed from any device, assesses what a student understands and how he or she learns best. It then adapts to that child’s individual learning style and delivers customized, interactive lessons. In addition, the PLA pinpoints areas where a student needs more help and reacts by providing content to reinforce concepts. By harnessing the power of data, the PLA also offers unprecedented insights into student learning. This free, open-access resource can be continually updated at no cost to the taxpayer. It empowers teachers, making it easier for them to prepare robust, engaging lessons and ensure that all students are mastering the subject material.
With the creation of the PLA, the Rice team is building on the work that it has done to develop a library of free, peer-reviewed, online textbooks for college students. The digital books have been adopted for more than a thousand courses at colleges and universities, saving students over $90 million to date. LJAF has invested heavily in both projects.
We are also funding a number of other groups that are working to improve education through digital technology. One such organization is Silicon Schools Fund, which is supporting the development of schools where face-to-face instruction is combined with online, self-guided activities, collaborative projects, and innovative classroom models. EdX, which offers interactive online classes and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) from the world’s best universities, is another grantee. With funding from LJAF, edX is expanding its platform and the number of rigorous courses for college and high school students.