NAU awarded $1 million grant to help launch Personalized Learning

Northern Arizona University received a major funding boost for its Personalized Learning initiative with a $1 million grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges.

“With Personalized Learning, we are opening a new era in academic instruction at Northern Arizona University,” said NAU President John Haeger. “This program is a huge step toward transforming our institution through technology. We are grateful that Next Generation Learning Challenges has recognized our innovative approach with this award.”

NAU’s Extended Campuses will administer the initiative after its expected launch in January.

Next Generation Learning Challenges is a collaborative partnership led by EDUCAUSE, the leading organization for information technology in higher education, and funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To date, it has awarded nearly $23 million in grants to 65 organizations and institutions focused on piloting and scaling new school and degree models, compiling evidence of what works and accelerating adoption.

Personalized Learning at NAU will allow motivated students to jump-start certain bachelor’s degree programs by pre-testing to determine what they already know, allowing them to receive credits for prior learning and experience. The program then provides a variety of individualized academic resources to ensure steady progress, including extensive mentoring.

Technology plays a central role as students work online at their own pace, receiving assistance based on frequent assessments of their needs and learning styles. They pay a flat annual tuition of $5,000 with no limits to the number of credits they can accumulate in a year. There are no additional charges for books or fees.

Faculty will actively participate, from designing the curriculum to advising and mentoring, using information gained from student tests and other inputs to offer customized strategies for success.

NAU is partnering with Pearson to design more than 90 online competency-based courses. The courses will be offered through the Pearson LearningStudio online learning platform. Course modules will include readiness assessment and remediation, and align with degree program competencies.

“Northern Arizona University is taking a leadership role in creating innovative approaches to learning that help drive student success with its online competency-based program,” said Don Kilburn, vice chairman of Pearson Higher Education and CEO of Pearson Learning Solutions.

On Monday, representatives from NAU joined other higher education administrators and officials from the Lumina Foundation at a briefing in Washington, D.C., with Congressional staff. The briefing, titled “Beyond Seat Time—New Learning Models,” focused on competency-based education and its implementation.