Research and Development – Digital Promise

Research and Development

The Adult Learning Initiative leads and promotes equity-centered research and development projects that are informed by, inclusive of, and relevant to adult learners. See below for information about our projects by topic area:

The Science of Adult Learning

We collaborate closely with the Learner Variability Project to root our work in the science of adult learning. Together, we work to provide a whole learner framework, making research and strategies more accessible for practitioners through the Adult Learner Model.

Toward Inclusive Design: Informing the Development of Learning and Employment Records (LERs)

We are deeply motivated to understand the role of digital tools and technologies in today’s workforce. We have led several research projects to examine the role of data interoperability in the adult learning ecosystem that serves frontline workers, particularly in retail, restaurants, hospitality, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. We have learned that working people must be included in the design and development of tech-based solutions, such as Learning and Employment Records, to more efficiently and equitably match individuals to education and career opportunities.

  • Digital Promise collaborated with workers in frontline sectors – along with leaders in higher education, design, and technology – to explore how LERs could be designed to promote greater equity in the skills-based future of learning and work. The result is a set of worker-generated inclusive design principles and user profiles for LER technology developers. Read our full report, hear directly from workers involved in our study via this video, and download a shareable copy of our Inclusive Design Principles.
  • Building Networks for Frontline Talent Development (2020) envisioned a more collaborative, data-driven, and worker-centered approach to advance the frontline workforce. Through several case studies, we identified a set of actionable strategies that communities used to build cross-sector networks and solve local workforce needs.
  • Tapping Data for Frontline Talent Development (2019) explored how institutions and organizations might use worker data to identify needs, optimize and streamline services, and advance opportunities for workers. We learned that today’s ecosystem is complex, siloed, and tends to remove agency from the worker by using their data without involving them in program design, development, and decision-making.

Micro-credentials and Social Mobility

Digital Promise has developed a comprehensive platform of over 500 micro-credentials in partnership with education institutions across sectors and states. Micro-credentials are digital certifications that verify an individual’s competence with a skill or set of skills, providing learners with recognition for the skills they develop throughout their education and work experiences. Micro-credentials have the potential to support learners’ agency in pursuing postsecondary learning and career advancement. But how and for what purposes are micro-credentials being used in industry, education, and training initiatives? Can micro-credentials promote social mobility for adult learners?

  • Discover how micro-credentials may be used to promote social mobility among rural learners impacted by poverty, particularly for Black, Latina/o, and Indigenous communities, in our landscape report, Micro-credentials for Social Mobility in Rural Postsecondary Communities: A Landscape Report. In four case studies, we take an in-depth look at postsecondary institutions that are using micro-credentials to create career pathways for rural learners. We found that micro-credentials can lead to job promotions, higher wages, and increased self-confidence for rural learners. Learn more and read our full report here.

The Postsecondary Equity and Digital Learning Project

The Digital Promise Learning Sciences Research Team is leading a researcher-practitioner partnership involving broad-access colleges and universities serving large numbers of students of color. Course improvement teams at these institutions are working with Digital Promise and other Every Learner Everywhere partner organizations to improve teaching and learning in high-enrollment gateway courses by incorporating best practices in teaching with technology and equity-oriented pedagogy. Data from Digital Promise’s Equity and Digital Learning Survey inform the work of the course improvement teams by highlighting areas where students do and do not feel well supported in the course.

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