The digital learning research network (dLRN) is a $1.6m grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, exploring how to more rapidly move innovative research out of academic labs and into practice. Under the leadership of the University of Texas at Arlington, dLRN is focused on solving practical and pressing challenges for learner success, including underrepresented students. As higher education continues its transition to digital, new teaching and learning opportunities arise. By adopting a research-informed approach to deploying technologies for learning, dLRN will provide value to colleges/universities, administrators, academics, and students by identifying what works and what doesn’t with digital learning.

dLRN includes:

  1. A core group of top-tier and state system partners. UT Arlington serves as the principal investigator for the grant and has partnered with Stanford, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Michigan, Smithsonian, SRI International, University System of Georgia, California Community Colleges, and University of Arkansas System
  2. National partner universities who are interested in engaging in the transition to digital universities through a research lens
  3. International partners who are experiencing comparable research questions to Core & National dLRN partners and wish to engage in and contribute to research development

The Approach

dLRN is structured to address basic research and promote practical results. Given the pace of societal and technological change, a shortened timeline for moving research to practice is required. Pasteur’s Quadrant is the space where basic research produces practical impact (see image below). Secondly, dLRN adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to research. Complex and intractable problems cannot be addressed through a single approach. As such, the dLRN process involved four stages:

  1. Identification of research opportunities in state (and related) systems
  2. Identification of research capabilities in top-tier universities, including promising technological and pedagogical practices
  3. Formation of research clusters (6-8) that define the most pressing challenges faced in higher education today, particularly in relation to success for all learners and the systemic transition to digital environments
  4. Formation of multi-disciplinary research teams to explore the clusters and provide paths forward to all partners