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Digital Learning Challenge Winner Utilizes AI to Accelerate Learning Research

XPRIZE has announced the winners of its Digital Learning Challenge, a $1 million competition seeking ways to "modernize, accelerate, and improve the technology and processes for evaluating and measuring effective learning and education." Out of three finalists named last fall, the Adaptive Experimentation Accelerator — a collaborative project of the Intelligent Adaptive Interventions Lab at University of Toronto, Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, and North Carolina State University — took the grand prize.

The Adaptive Experimentation Accelerator provides a platform for both traditional and adaptive experiments to help identify effective learning tools and processes that improve learning outcomes. It uses a 'MOOClet' toolkit to gather ideas from teachers, students, and scientists, and conduct experiments to test which ideas work best for which students. Data analysis is sped up by artificial intelligence algorithms, so that researchers can test more ideas more quickly and then put promising results into practice.  

Two runners-up were also named:

  • Terracotta, an open source Canvas plug-in created at Indiana University that enables researchers and teachers to embed experimental studies on learning activities within their learning management system course sites; and
  • UpGrade by Carnegie Learning, a free, open source platform that enables users to compare the efficacy of different ed tech tools and resources, such as lesson content, interactive elements, videos, algorithms, and more, through iterative experimentation.

The grand prize winner will receive $500,000 and the runners-up will receive $125,000 each to scale the impact and implementation of their solutions. The challenge was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the independent and nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

"Through their participation and success in the Digital Learning Challenge, each of these teams has helped make advancements in technology to improve the ways that educators teach and that students learn," said IES Director Mark Schneider, in a statement. "These teams have laid the groundwork for a new phase of experiments of frequency, scope and scale not possible through traditional methods of education research, which will ultimately lead to better experiences and outcomes for all learners."

"We are deeply proud of the achievements of the Digital Learning Challenge finalist teams, whose creativity and commitment to improving education outcomes through technology and experimentation will resonate far beyond the conclusion of the competition," comented XPRIZE Digital Learning Challenge Technical Lead Monique Golden. "We look forward to working with these teams to forge new partnerships that will ensure they can continue developing and refining their technologies and scale the impact of their solutions."

For more information, visit the Digital Learning Challenge site.


Listen to the team behind Terracotta in season 2, episode 7 of the Campus Technology Insider podcast: The Science of Studying Student Learning at Scale

Listen to our interview with IES Director Mark Schneider in season 4, episode 2 of the Campus Technology Insider podcast: AI in Education: Will We Need Humans Anymore?

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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