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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

Reimagining the Higher Ed Ecosystem

Empowering people to design lifelong learning journeys

Department of Education

Type of Challenge: Ideas
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Georgia Institute of Technology Center for 21st Century Universities
Submission Start: 06/13/2018 04:15 PM ET
Submission End: 08/08/2018 04:15 PM ET

This challenge is externally hosted.

You can view the challenge details here:


Design-Brief-Final-2   How might we empower people to design their own learning journeys so they can lead purposeful and economically stable lives?

The Problem Technology is rapidly transforming the way we live, learn, and work. Entirely new jobs are emerging as others are lost to automation. People are living longer, yet switching jobs more often. These dramatic shifts call for a reimagining of the way we prepare for work and life—specifically, how we learn new skills and adapt to a changing economic landscape. The changes ahead are likely to hurt most those who can least afford to manage them: low-income and first generation learners already ill-served by our existing postsecondary education system. Our current system stifles economic mobility and widens income and achievement gaps; we must act now to ensure that we have an educational ecosystem flexible and fair enough to help all people live purposeful and economically stable lives. And if we are to design solutions proportionate to this problem, new technologies must be called on to scale approaches that reach the millions of vulnerable people across the country.

The Challenge The Challenge—Reimagining the Higher Education Ecosystem—seeks bold ideas for how our postsecondary education system could be reimagined to foster equity and encourage learner agency and resilience. We seek specific pilots to move us toward a future in which all learners can achieve economic stability and lead purposeful lives. This Challenge invites participants to articulate a vision and then design pilot projects for a future ecosystem that has the following characteristics:
●  Expands access:​ The educational system must ensure that all people—including low-income learners who are disproportionately underserved by the current higher education system—can leverage education to live meaningful and economically stable lives.
●  Draws on a broad postsecondary ecosystem:​ While college and universities play a vital role in educating students, there is a much larger ecosystem in which students learn. This ecosystem includes non-traditional “classes” or alternative learning providers, such as MOOCs, bootcamps, and online courses as well as on-the-job training and informal learning. Our future learning system must value the learning that happens in many different environments and enable seamless transitions between learning, work, and life.

Opportunity Areas We have identified three important categories ripe for innovative solutions. We encourage submissions aligned to one or more of these opportunity areas. Curating lifelong learning pathways:​ People are working longer and in jobs that require them to keep learning new skills. As a result, instead of completing most of their education before they start their careers, they are learning continuously over the course of their lifetimes. How might we ensure that people have access to learning opportunities that match their evolving personal and professional goals? In particular, can you imagine new types of education-to-work pathways and credentials that support low-income people and other disadvantaged populations in achieving living-wage work?

Creating a marketplace for student learning:​ ​Increasingly, people are collecting learning experiences and the credentials that communicate their accomplishments from multiple education providers. How might we create educational marketplaces that help learners discover and curate learning resources aligned with their goals? Taking this one step further, what ideas do you have to help learners effectively signal the knowledge and skills they collect from multiple sources? And how will we ensure that all different kinds of employers from various sectors will actually recognize and understand the meaning of these credentials? Leveraging emerging technology:​ ​Technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and virtual and mixed reality allow us to solve problems that we could not solve before. How might we leverage these emerging technologies to improve individual learning experiences? More broadly, how might open standards on competencies and assessments be used to bridge the education and workforce ecosystems? As increasing amounts of data about individuals are generated through this technology-rich learning environment, how might we allow people to own and securely manage their own digital identities, electing when and how that information is shared?

Guidance During this Challenge, we’re excited to see ideas that:
●  Incorporate specific, actionable pilots (or “scalable betas”) that can be launched in the near term.
●  Demonstrate relevance for traditionally underserved populations (such as people with low incomes, new immigrants, first-generation learners, and transitioning service members, etc.).
●  Address one or more of the three opportunity areas identified.
●  Facilitate seamless transitions between learning and work.
●  Include “big bet” ideas that enable transformative change.

Logistics & Prizes
●  The Challenge runs June 13 - August 8. Winners will be announced in early fall.
●  Prizes include national recognition, an invitation to a national convening sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, mentorship packages, and priority consideration for edtech accelerators and/or pitch competitions.
●  After a period of refinement, top ideas will be put before philanthropic and venture funders for consideration.



  • Participation in the Challenge, and as such, the awarding of prizes, is limited to individuals who are legal adults (and can prove this via identity documents) or, in the event that the person is a minor, have provided permission from their parent or guardian via the parental permission form, duly completed and signed.
  • At the time of registration, participants must certify that they fulfil the aforementioned criteria. The delivery of prizes to winners will be conditional upon participants’ ability to justify their compliance with the aforementioned conditions
  • Participants may make submissions at any point during which the Challenge is open (June 13 - August 8)
  • Participants may make as many distinct submissions as they like. Duplicate submissions will be disregarded.
Team Size
  • Team size should be between one and six users on the platform.
  • Individuals may submit ideas on behalf of a larger, pre-existing team.
Intellectual Property
  • The text and other information or documentation submitted by participants will be openly licensed, allowing Challenge organizers to use or publish.
  • The solutions proposed under the Challenge remain the property of the participants. Challenge partners are not authorized to commercialize or implement these solutions without receiving prior consent from the appropriate teams.
  • All the participants guarantee that they are the exclusive authors of the content (ideas, creations, images and more generally any document) of the projects and that these do not violate, directly and/or indirectly, or incorporate any element that may be the object of a property right of a third party, without any limit of territory.
Discussion Board
  • The purpose of the discussion board is to facilitate an ongoing dialogue about the Challenge and related issues. We encourage participation and discussion and expect that participants will treat each other with respect and dignity. All posts and comments on the discussion board will be reviewed. Agorize and the Challenge partners retain the right to remove or not remove posts/comments.
  • Comments will be removed if they:
    • Contain vulgar or abusive language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups
    • Promote services or products (non-commercial links that are relevant to the Challenge are acceptable)
    • Are clearly "off topic" from the Challenge, or "spam"
    • Make unsupported accusations
    • Reference federal employees by name
    • Violate the laws of the United States or the policies of the U.S. Department of Education
  • Comments will not be edited to remove objectionable content, so please be sure that your comments contain none of the above.
  • To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, do not include personally identifiable information, such as Social Security number, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. Under no circumstances will comments be allowed to remain that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email address, phone numbers, or similar personally identifiable information.
Selection of Winners
  • Up to 10 winners will be selected in two ways.
    • Up to eight winners will be selected by a panel of judges with expertise in higher education and related fields. Judges will select winners based on relevance, ingenuity, and feasibility.
    • Two winners will be selected by popular vote from the public. Votes should also favor relevance, ingenuity, and feasibility.

How To Enter

Please create an account at There will be specific instructions for forming a team and creating a valid submission.