16 Ways to Expand Access to Learning

At the ASU+GSV Education Innovation Summit (#Edinnovation), I moderated a discussion about, “How do we get equal access to education.”  With lots of help from an informed audience and four great panelists, here are 16 recommendations.


  1. States should fund universal access to pre-school (like Oklahoma where 70% of students attend public pre-k programs).

  2. States should encourage better competency-based preparation and development for preschool teachers.

  3. Expanding access to high quality early learning experiences (city or state sponsored access to resources including mobile applications).


  1. Enacting the ‘good school promise’ – accountability is key to ensuring that every family in every state has access to good neighborhood schools, like Julie Jackson is supporting in Newark, as Managing Director of Uncommon Schools ,  who is always thinking about ways to improve the school model and support services to increase college completion rates.

  2. Supporting improved middle grade STEM preparation to boost low income/minority participation in rigorous college preparatory courses and exposure to STEM careers so they can gain the interest and training.

  3. Proactive authorizing of contract & charter schools targeting underserved geographies and student groups. School districts and civic leaders should consider the transported options available to each zip code in an urban area.

  4. Expanding access to full and part time online learning, blended with good face to face experiences, as well according to Lynda Weinman, CEO of Lynda.com (See Online Learning: Myths, Reality & Promise).

  5. Weighted, portable, flexible funding (See Funding Options, Students, and Achievement) would pay for extended learning time and higher pay for teachers in high challenge schools.

  6. Regular demonstrations of learning on competency-based progressions will make it easier for students to learn in many ways in formal and informal settings. (See From Cohorts to Competency.)

  7. Universal access to college credit opportunities in high school, on college campuses, and online. Also, knowing about and tapping into financial support opportunities to keep students enrolled. Andrea Zapp, CEO of Chicago Urban League, described early college high schools sponsored  Microsoft, Verizon, Motorola, IBM that provide the opportunity to gain an associates degree and a corporate job.

  8. Early college and career awareness, guidance and support services as John Katzman, founder and CEO of Noodle, believes the tools are out there but the key is to marry really good advice with really deep data to provide the kind of support students need to find the right path.

Post secondary

  1. Free or means-tested state support for Associate degree programs.

  2. State partnerships with inexpensive accelerated competency-based degree pathways (e.g., WGU)

Job training

  1. Means-tested state support for job-training programs (could target skill gap occupations) eg micro-credentialing (as described here).

Community. The explosion of free and open learning resources is a global asset but for low income families it can be a challenge getting online to access.

  1. Expanding broadband access in community hotspots and access devices at libraries.

  2. Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com, would like to see a little less test-prep and broader access to joy-filled learning experiences inside and outside of school.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.