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Gates Foundation Bets on Facebook App to Help Kids Graduate

We’re used to thinking of Facebook as, at best, a distractor for college kids and at worst, a resume-destroyer. But the Gates Foundation, in its first-ever venture investment of $2 million in a little-known Facebook app platform called Inigral, is betting that it can actually make a measurable improvement in the rate of students who complete college, which hovers at a dismal 56% nationwide. After economic factors, the key driver of persistence in college is student engagement–a tough-to-measure factor of how much students are immersed in intellectual and social life at the school. Inigral’s Schools App connects prospective students, students, and alumni with each other over common interests in a Twitter or Yammer-like format. “Some call it kin to a virtual student union,” says CEO Michael Staton, who talked with Gates for a year prior to the investment. “Students use it to share information, express themselves, find friends, start projects, and find opportunities to get involved.” At one of their schools, the University of Texas at Tyler, prospective frosh who signed up for the app were five times more likely to attend the school. The Gates investment will fund introductions of the Schools App at colleges that serve lots of lower-income Pell Grant recipients. Inigral is not the only company trying to leverage social media to improve outcomes for students. Red Rover is a similar, web-based tool, while ConnectEdu functions as a virtual college counselor as well as providing a recruitment and retention platform for colleges. Read the original article at Fast Company.
diyu Anya Kamenetz is the author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.

Columbia, Brown, and 15 More Universities Join Coursera’s Free Online Platform

Coursera, the platform for “massively open online courses” founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford, announced today that it has doubled its number of university partners. The new roster includes several global institutions. Since its debut earlier this year, 1.3 million people have signed up for a free six- to ten-week Coursera class, […] Read More..

Artisanal U.: The Radical Potential of College Without the Classroom

From GOOD magazine. Published December 2, 2011. Joyce Alcantara grew up in Rhode Island with her mom, three sisters, two nieces, and a cousin. Her dad, incarcerated in Florida, isn’t really a part of her life. Alcantara had trouble with classes her senior year in high school and almost dropped out; her saving grace was […] Read More..

Why College Is Not A Bubble (Except For The University Of Phoenix)

The college-is-a-bubble meme just keeps growing. Student-loan debt surpassed credit-card debt for the first time in history last year. Tuition is rising at three times the rate of inflation, and there are growing concerns about the quality of education offered at even our nation’s fanciest schools. Meanwhile, prominent venture capitalist Peter Thiel is paying young […] Read More..

Top Ways to Save Money at College

College tuition at public universities is up 24 percent in just the last five years. With graduation right around the corner, many high school seniors and their families are wondering how they can save on one of the biggest expenses they’ll face. Assuming you’ve already made your choice of colleges, here are some top ways […] Read More..

Obama’s Lessons for Leadership in A Time of Change

The President’s speech to the nation last night was primarily billed as his chance to plead his case to the nation for the ongoing military intervention in Libya. But slipped into his remarks was a primer on 21st century leadership in a time of change, a topic Life in Beta is particularly interested in. Here […] Read More..