What does “iron triangle” mean? For us —and many others in the higher education space— the “iron triangle” refers to the three major challenges in higher ed: cost, access, and quality. There is an unbreakable interdependence between these three things—changing one inevitably creates consequences within the other two.

Technology has the opportunity to change how these three components interact with one another. That is why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched their Next Generation Courseware Challenge (NGCC): to identify promising personalized and adaptive courseware that would increase access while not dramatically increasing cost or causing a decrease in quality. Smart Sparrow, a recent Gates Foundation grantee, is thrilled to be part of in this project.

Ithaka, a research firm, recently published a report on personalization in higher education which includes some of the NGCC finalists—including Smart Sparrow and the Inspark Science Network. Their findings?

It is our belief that as adaptive learning platforms begin to offer more instructor resources and course authoring tools (an emerging trend discussed below) they will become increasingly suited to blended contexts in which, online learning, practice, and assessment are used to enhance—rather than replace— instructor explanation, intervention, and support.

We couldn’t agree more. Keeping the experience of instructors at the center of our work has been a guiding principle for us, with pedagogical ownership being a core part of our DNA. Giving instructors the ability to create rich, interactive and adaptive learning experience, with educator-centric products, will help provide access to high-quality learning experiences to significant numbers of students—and thus break the “iron triangle”.