A Tools Competition to Advance Adult Learner Success

There are roughly 6.8 million Californians ages 25 to 54 who have a high school diploma but no college degree. Nationwide, there are 40 million working-age adults with some college credits but no degree.

The state of California saw these evolving demographics and had the foresight to create Calbright College, which serves as the leading edge of the learning curve to address the variables in the complex equation of how to best nurture adult learner success. We are working on solutions that are responsive to the realities facing our community of learners, and our founding legislation calls on the College to share what we learn in order to advance the California Community Colleges system and the learning sciences field as a whole.

As part of this mandate, Calbright recently announced we’ve joined forces with the Axim Collaborative, Georgia State University, The Learning Agency, Schmidt Futures, and other philanthropic leaders like the Gates and Walton foundations to sponsor a track in the 2023-2024 Learning Engineering Tools Competition.

Tools Competition: Engaging Adult Learners in Higher Education Track


The Engaging Adult Learners in Higher Education track focuses on bringing together researchers, educators, entrepreneurs, and technologists to accelerate and apply innovative approaches to strengthen outcomes for adult learners. While Calbright would like to implement selected tools within its own operations—in order to benefit the largest number of students as the College continues to grow—winners will also have the opportunity to operate beyond Calbright in order to support adult learners across the country.

To kick off the application period for the competition—the deadline to submit is November 10, 2023—Calbright and partners hosted an online webinar to underscore student needs and how proposals would be evaluated.

“We are most excited about tools and interventions that support students through self-directed learning skills, building community and connection and belonging, and/or assistance and navigating career outcomes,” said Calbright’s Head of Strategic Growth and Development Marisa Bold. “These areas are areas that research has shown help drive persistence, completion, workforce readiness and outcomes in learners.”

As we think about catering education to adult learners, competition sponsors also posed some critical questions to those interested in submitting proposals:

  • How can we support and accelerate students throughout their educational journey?
  • What tools and interventions can lead to better outcomes around program completion and careers?
  • What do adult learners need that may differ from other students?
  • How can we support self-regulated learning skills and workforce readiness and outcomes?
  • In what ways can we foster and support community and belonging in an online setting?


Bold added, “In this competition, we are focused on tools that complement instruction and provide supports and interventions that accelerate students’ learning and outcomes, versus proposals that are focused on curriculum or instructional design.”

The webinar also covered some tips and tricks for proposals. Organizers mentioned that if a potential applicant isn’t sure which track they fit into or which funding level, pick what most closely aligns with the tool and the competition team can help from there.

Overall, this is a collaborative competition with a goal of helping learners succeed. If you are interested in participating in the Engaging Adult Learners in Higher Education track, please submit a proposal by November 10, 2023. More information is also discussed in the track’s kick-off information session.

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