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Digital Learning Challenge Finalists Competing for $1M Prize

North Carolina State University, University of Toronto, Carnegie Learning, and Indiana University teams among the finalists in XPRIZE competition

XPRIZE, an organization that operates competitions to "solve humanity's grand challenges," has announced three Digital Learning Challenge finalists that are using AI methods, big data, and machine learning to better study educational outcomes. The teams will compete for a $1 million prize pool with the goal of modernizing, accelerating, and improving ways to identify effective learning tools and processes across K-12 and higher education.

In the first phase of the competition, launched in December 2021, 33 teams submitted technical plans to build systems that can perform rapid, replicable experiments to measure the success of learning programs. Ten teams were selected to move on to the pilot phase, where they spent six months testing their systems in an accredited educational institution setting. Now, three finalists will demonstrate their work to the competition judges, a panel made up of education and technology experts from a variety of companies and organizations.

The three finalists are:

  • Adaptive Experimentation Accelerator (formerly known as HINTS-IAI): North Carolina State University, in partnership with University of Toronto and Carnegie Mellon University, is developing a cross-platform infrastructure that uses MOOClets — digital course components that can be manipulated for A/B testing, real-time data analysis and more — to enable adaptive experiments and personalized learning.
  • Terracotta: This Canvas plug-in developed by Indiana University allows educators and researchers to embed studies directly in their learning management system course sites and manage participant recruitment, random assignment, de-identified data exports and other logistical details.
  • UpGrade by Carnegie Learning: an open source platform for A/B testing developed by Carnegie Learning.

Finalists receive a combined $250,000 (evenly split across the three teams) to fund early solution development. At the completion of the competition, a grand prize winner will receive $500,000; one runner-up will receive $250,000.

The Digital Learning Challenge is the first XPRIZE competition to be sponsored by a federal government agency: the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), an independent and nonpartisan division of the U.S. Department of Education devoted to statistics, research, and evaluation.

 "We're thrilled to be in a position to continue to demonstrate our experimental design in a formal education setting," said XPRIZE Digital Learning Challenge Technical Lead Dr. Monique Golden, in a statement. "Since the pilot, we've identified three teams that will move on to the finals in the hopes of better understanding how we can harness big data to impact the education experience for millions of Americans across the country."

"This new phase of the competition will further evaluate each teams' technology, data, and user experience, but also review the strength of their business plans," said IES Director Dr. Mark Schneider. "At this junction, the ability to test teams' effectiveness will offer valuable insights into how to help close the learning gap and offer a more in-depth look at how technology is used in measuring educational methods."

For more information, visit the XPRIZE site.

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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