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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Earlier this month, the Online Learning Consortium honored three institutions with the Digital Learning Innovation award, a $100,000 prize for each. The award recognizes “innovative approaches in addressing important challenges and barriers,” such as improving outcomes, minimizing textbook costs, targeting “bottleneck” courses and improving learning efficiency.

National Louis University earned the award for its professional pathways program, which offers a professionally focused bachelor’s degree for $10,000 per year. The institution reports first- to second-year retention of 75 percent following the program’s fall 2015 launch, and enrollment has grown from 85 students in the first school year to a projected 800 currently, according to the OLC award page.

Southern New Hampshire University won for incorporating integrated courseware into four first-year experience courses in order to “streamline learning pathways and provide support for first-year students.” The altered instructional and pedagogical approaches can be replicated across multiple general education courses as well.

Western Governors University was recognized for implementing a specialized online course to develop undergraduate nursing students’ affective skills, enabling them to be active co-creators of their learning. Over 1,000 students enrolled in the required course during the first month; six months later, nearly 7,000 students have completed the course, with survey results showing significant student progression.

Faculty-led teams from the following institutions were recognized with $10,000 awards for their work on digital courseware at the Nov. 16 ceremony:

  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • College of the Sequoias
  • Glendale Community College
  • Merrimack College
  • Oakton Community College
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Richard Bland College of William & Mary
  • Salt Lake Community College
  • University of New England