Validating Value with Early Insights

A focus on research, data, and student success makes CALS one of New U VP’s primary competitive advantages.

The Center for Applied Learning Science (CALS) is a non-profit innovation lab at WGU. CALS offers unique value to New U VP by evaluating products through its data informed, user-centered process rather than relying on less rigorous decision making methods.

With an unparalleled level of access to data, CALS is uniquely positioned to make a difference in the education industry. Their data scientists identify insights into the barriers students encounter in education, allowing for the opportunity to intervene. Further, CALS provides students the support and strategies they need to surmount those barriers. Through a growing population of over 100,000 students and a large network of partner institutions, CALS tests and deploys at scale for large student populations.

CALS uses agile methodologies in interdisciplinary teams to create deliberately designed learning activities, products, and tools for online delivery. Those interdisciplinary teams bring experience, expert knowledge, and innovative approaches to technology. CALS defines objectives based on data; iterates through multiple rounds of user testing; and verifies designs through randomized controlled trials.

Assessment Case Studies

The unique CALS evaluation model has been proven over the last 5 years, both in demonstrating the efficacy of new solutions and in demonstrating the lack of significant effect in others. In some cases where outcomes are particularly meaningful, WGU has gone on to become a customer representing a major portion of the vendor’s revenue.

After demonstrating significant lift in WGU student readmissions following a preparatory course at Straighterline, WGU has become the source of 20% of Straighterline’s business through referrals.

ReUp students reverted to the mean after initial pop.

Evaluated in 2015 with a 30-student test that showed significant efficacy in improving student outcomes. Guild has gone on to raise $71mm and closed major contracts with Disney, WalMart, and others.

Foundations for Success

Using insights generated at CALS, WGU developed a preparatory soft skills course that improves likelihood of graduation by 300%, pass rates in statistics courses by 10% and on-time progress by 8%. More than 20,000 WGU students now begin their nursing degree with this course.

Informed by Unique Testing Methodology

CALS scientists avidly work to solve learning obstacles through quick testing and a focused development for speed-to-insight. Ultimately, CALS aims to improve student outcomes and remove barriers to education by combining technology, design thinking, and rigorous research methods that are grounded in scientific literature. New learning models and technologies are validated through randomized, controlled trials among WGU’s 110,000 students. These pilots provide unique, early insights into the efficacy of new solutions and their value to students and buyers.

NUVP Investment Pipeline

Investment Sourcing
Investment Diligence
Deep Diligence
Efficacy Assessment. Real-world testing to quantify value for students, educators, and employers
Jason Levin
Head of CALS and Vice President of Institutional Research, WGU

A couple of projects in the works:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded CALS and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) a grant to support a project partnership designed to help students navigate the increasingly complex employment landscape. The $700,000 grant will be awarded to the two institutions over three years. Bringing together leaders in human-computer interaction, machine learning, AI, and education, the project partnership strives to forge acceptable and effective paths toward career growth, community connection, and wellbeing within a constantly changing career landscape. Data-driven learning about the student experience will inform the development of “Intelligent Coaching Agents,” trained to guide students to practical resources (including human career coaches and peers) in order to lead them to decisions that ultimately improve their chances for success.

CALS was selected to participate in the inaugural round of J-PAL’s Education, Technology, and Opportunity Innovation Competition. CALS will work with J-PAL, a research center at MIT, to develop scalable models to improve student learning. The J-PAL/CALS team is evaluating its suite of adaptive online interventions aimed at helping students cultivate a learning mindset and reduce math anxiety.