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Reducing the Cost of Remedial Education with a Blended Learning Peer Tutoring Platform

Scale personalized and cost-effective remedial education by nurturing youth to become peer tutors who teach other students.

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

- Aspiring college students from low-income backgrounds - High schools, universities, community colleges, education nonprofits and other organizations that help these youth

Remedial education refers to classes taken on a college campus that are below college-level. Students pay tuition and can use financial aid for remedial courses, but they do not receive college credit. Most remediation occurs in reading, writing and math. [1]

When considering all first-time undergraduates, stud­ies have found anywhere from 28-40% of students enroll in at least one re­medial course. When looking at only community college students, several studies have found remediation rates surpassing 50%. [2]

Remediation is costly for states to pro­vide and for students to take. Strong American Schools estimates the costs of remedial education to states and students at around $2.3 billion each year. [3]

Lowering remediation rates will save money. The Alliance for Excellent Education suggests that reducing the need for remediation could generate an extra $3.7 bil­lion annually from decreased spending on the delivery of remedial education and increased tax revenue from students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree. [4]

[1], [2], [3], [4]:  National Conference of State Legislatures - Reforming Remedial Education:

How Our Idea Reimagines the Cost of College:
What if even half of the over two billion dollars currently spent on remedial education could be reallocated to providing more subsidies and scholarships?  

Our idea reduces the cost of remedial education by implementing an instructor-guided peer tutoring program during the summer/semester before college.  Each student, as part of his/her learning experience, is responsible for tutoring 3 other students.  

As this program can be led by fewer instructors (who don’t have to be specialized professors), and to the extent the program can be held in a lower-cost / non-college-campus environment, tuition costs would be reduced.

By tutoring others in what they've learned, students also learn better.

Program completion rates could be increased by:
- A learn-by-teaching model where students are responsible not only for their own learning but also that of others (as a result, instructors no longer have to "teach to the middle" -- they can work with specific groups of students on an as-needed basis)
- Nurturing a sense of community, self-confidence, and being part of something bigger than oneself

Students are:
- Taught both content and tutoring skills
- Grouped by skill level and learning style
- Given support by instructors and student tutors

Students will be matched in groups/learning pods based on criteria such as:
- Academic level
- Learning style
- Personality (e.g., level of growth mindset)

Ways in which technology might be incorporated to reduce costs and improve academic outcomes:
- A mobile app quiz / formative assessment that groups students into learning pods
- Pre-existing or new apps that enable students to post questions and answers online and share best practices
- MOOCs / online videos that might complement in-person tutor-student interaction

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have talked with local education nonprofits and community colleges, and are exploring opportunities to conduct a pilot tutoring program that incorporates the model described above.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Thank you, OpenIDEO community! Areas we have been brainstorming include: - Best practices in implementing near-peer tutoring models / programs that nurture growth mindsets - Contacts at high schools or other education organizations that might be interested in piloting such an after-school program - Suggestions for technologies that might be most relevant and effective initially

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes


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