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New College Research Center to Focus on Online Study Skills

SRI Education, Columbia University and the nonprofit Achieving the Dream are partnering on a research center to help students learn study skills necessary for success in online learning environments.

A student sitting outside while studying on their laptop.
A trio of higher-education research institutions is partnering on a new research center to assess how educators and emerging technologies can help students better manage their own learning, funded by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

According to a recent news release, leads on the project include SRI Education, a division of the Stanford-affiliated nonprofit research institute SRI International; the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College; and Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit focused on helping community college students.

The as-yet-unnamed new center will bring together several other colleges, researchers and ed-tech developers to investigate professional development strategies and create an ed-tech “toolkit” including information on best practices, focusing on planning and goal-setting.

More than a third of post-secondary students were enrolled in online courses in the fall of 2019, representing an 11-point jump since 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Analysts from SRI say those numbers are likely to continue growing after the COVID-19 digital learning surge.

SRI’s news release explained that college instructors often see students of high aptitude struggle with assignments and exams if they lack the necessary skills for planning and studying, which can lead them to lose confidence or motivation. It emphasized how much more important self-directed learning skills will become with the growing popularity of online courses.

Deborah Jonas, director of SRI’s Center for Education Research and Innovation, and Nikki Edgecombe, a professor of education policy and social analysis at Columbia University’s Teachers College, will help lead the new center.

“With Achieving the Dream and our partner colleges, the center will promote cross-sector knowledge sharing and national uptake of the evidence-based training resources the team will develop,” Jonas, the center’s principal investigator, said in a public statement.

Other partners will include Bunker Hill Community College in Massachusetts, Calbright College in California, Macomb Community College in Michigan, Odessa College in Texas, Palm Beach State College in Florida, Portland State University in Oregon, Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, Virginia State University, and Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina.