UMUC Receives $500,000 Grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York

Grant monies will be used to redesign and evaluate "gateway" courses based on  Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative

July 25, 2011

ADELPHI, Md. (July 25, 2011) – University of Maryland University College (UMUC) today announced that it has received a $500,000 grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York to redesign three of its introductory science and mathematics gateway courses based on Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI)—a Web-based learning environment developed by cognitive psychologists, faculty content experts, and computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon. OLI has been shown to be highly effective in helping students master a range of subjects, from statistics and economics to modern languages, biochemistry, and biology.

Through the “Gateways to Success” grant, UMUC will work in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon’s OLI research team and Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) to redesign three courses in order to improve student success and graduation rates by developing deeper learning experiences to prepare underserved populations for the 21st century global workforce.

Gateway courses—the courses that most students take when they first enroll at UMUC—account for more than 20 percent of UMUC’s stateside online undergraduate enrollments. At the same time, institutional data show that students are more likely to withdraw from or fail gateway courses than other university courses. As a result, UMUC’s School of Undergraduate Studies (SUS) has committed to redesigning the classroom learning environment using techniques derived from Carnegie Mellon’s OLI.

The grant funding will allow UMUC and PGCC to pilot three OLI courses that have been adapted to meet the needs of UMUC students—Introduction to Computer-Based Systems (IFSM 201), Introduction to Biology (BIOL 103), and introductory Business Statistics (STAT 230). Later, student grades and success rates will be tracked and compared to the grades and success rates of students taking the non-OLI versions of the same courses, and the results analyzed.

“Low persistence and graduation rates, especially among non-traditional students, are two related challenges facing higher education today. Educational technology can be a key component of success in working with diverse and underserved populations, but only if the technology is developed using sound methodologies and researched results,” said UMUC President Susan C. Aldridge. “UMUC is committed to exploring these technologies through the help of Carnegie Corporation grant, and we are confident that the outcomes will help our students, and the students of our community college partners, achieve a greater level of success.”

Ultimately, the research is expected to improve student success, as evidenced by fewer student failures and withdrawals, as well as increasing knowledge retention and student satisfaction.