May 29, 2024 – Future of Work

College Innovation Network provides bottom-up model for improving access to postsecondary education


Despite facing similar challenges related to student access and affordability, postsecondary education institutions often lack the time, resources, and framework to collaborate in a way that drives meaningful change for learners.

Which is why, four years ago, the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) announced support for the College Innovation Network (CIN), a project by WGU (Western Governors University) Labs, Inc. In a bottom-up approach that paired 15 institutions, from Arizona Western College to Capella University and Northern Virginia Community College, with technology providers, CIN identified digital tools and learning techniques that could generate affordable and accessible education pathways that would empower people to unleash their full potential.

The community of practice also allowed institutions to learn from one another and collaborate with peers who shared a mission to ensure more individuals can self-actualize through postsecondary education.

In a new report, WGU Labs outlines several key lessons from CIN. Here are a few:

Belonging is fundamental to the student experience. As flexible and dispersed learning options proliferate, true educational success hinges on the creation of engaged, inclusive, and adaptive learning environments.

Collaborative network models are crucial for under-resourced institutions. By connecting institutions through a network, colleges and universities develop crucial platforms and channels to solve critical challenges.

Peer learning is even more powerful when diverse institutions engage. Leveraging diverse perspectives, rather than those only from similar institutions, enhances the depth, accuracy, and applicability of insights.

Philanthropy is key to postsecondary education innovation. In addressing the challenges of sustainability and scalability, especially for under-resourced institutions, philanthropy can play a pivotal role in driving innovation in education.

CKF’s hope is that these insights will spark a national discourse on the principles that will help build a better postsecondary education system for learners everywhere.

Click here to read the full report.