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NASA Backs Arizona State on Adaptive Science Courses

March 28, 2016

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will spend $10 million on a grant to Arizona State University to encourage the development of personalized, digital online courseware in science education, the university announced this week.

The money will help fund a five-year project, led by faculty members at Arizona State, who seek to build on their experimental work with adaptive science courses, which respond to individual learners. A few years ago, Ariel Anbar, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the university, created a popular online course, dubbed Habitable Worlds, which introduces nonscience students to space exploration, climate science and the search for life beyond Earth. The course uses adaptive technology from Smart Sparrow, an adaptive learning company.

Lindy T. Elkins-Tanton, director of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, will lead the work with Anbar and other experts to "develop a new way of learning and teaching through exploration of the unknown, at scale, via a digital learning platform," Arizona State and Smart Sparrow said in a written statement. The courseware then will be available for distribution among a coalition of colleges and universities focused on adaptive science courses.

Initially the project will be focused on astrobiology. NASA's Science Mission Directorate Education Committee is the source of the $10 million grant.

“The aim is to help learners become problem solvers capable of exploring the unknown, rather than just mastering what is already known,” Anbar said. “It is learning science as process and as a universe of questions rather than as a dusty collection of facts.”

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Paul Fain

Paul Fain, Contributing Editor, came to Inside Higher Ed in September 2011, after a six-year stint covering leadership and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Paul has also worked in higher ed P.R., with Widmeyer Communications, but couldn't stay away from reporting. A former staff writer for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., Paul has written for The New York Times, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. He's won a few journalism awards, including one for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association and the Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. Paul got hooked on journalism while working too many hours at The Review, the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, where he earned a degree in political science in 1996. A native of Dayton, Ohio, and a long-suffering fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Fain plays guitar in a band with more possible names than polished songs.

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