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Michigan Virtual researchers studying learner-centered, technology-enabled practices

By Author Profile Photo Michigan Virtual

LansingMichigan Virtual™’s research institute, with support from Education Development Center, is documenting an 18-month project underway in Rhode Island with a goal to more deeply understand the needs around high school redesign for the 21st century.


Known formally as the Fuse Architect: Building Integrated Learning Systems project, this work began in January 2017 and is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute® (MVLRI®) is documenting the collaborative effort made up of the Highlander Institute and their partners, including the Rhode Island Department of Education, the Rhode Island Office of Innovation, IDEO, EdSurge, and several Rhode Island-based stakeholders attempting to design and pilot systems that promote student-centered learning.

The goal of the Fuse Architect project is to realign systems of education toward student-centered learning, using a new generation of tools to ensure that all students leave school ready for college and career.

“The transformational work occurring across the state of Rhode Island to implement blended and personalized learning is providing a rich foundation for other states to learn from,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “The lessons learned and documented through this research are not only leading to refinement of the Rhode Island model but will also accelerate efforts to inform blended and personalized learning initiatives in Michigan and elsewhere.”

As the lead organization, the Highlander Institute supports classrooms, buildings, district leaders, and state education agencies in reimagining how students learn, how learning is measured, and what skills and competencies are essential for success both in college and beyond. The Highlander Institute specializes in blended and personalized learning models to ensure that all children have the educational opportunities and support they need to achieve their full potential.

“Our education system needs to be setup to ensure students are at the center — meaning that they have voice in their education, experience education that is personalized to their needs, are able to learn inside and outside of the classroom, and can move along when they have mastered content — not when they’ve spent a certain amount of time sitting in a classroom,” said Lucas Orwig, Program Officer, Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The project’s partners are assessing needs, designing approaches, and piloting integrated learning systems — groups of coordinated education technology tools that support the four tenets of student-centered learning. These tenets, or principles, for powerful teaching and learning, are meant to ensure that all students develop the sort of high-level knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, careers, and civic life. Drawn from the mind/brain sciences, learning theory, and research on youth development, these tenets are overlapping and complementary. In combination, and when guided by a coherent and rigorous set of educational goals, they provide a strong foundation for the pursuit of deeper learning.

The team invites interested parties to follow the project as it unfolds through regular blog posts, podcasts, and webinars.


About MVLRI

MVLRI draws upon recognized state and national leaders from K-12 schools, higher education, and the private industry to provide research, evaluation, and development expertise that support Michigan’s students, parents, schools, K-12 and postsecondary educators, and state and local policymakers. Learn more at mvlri.org.

About Michigan Virtual

Michigan Virtual has provided a path to the future for students and educators since 1998. As a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation focused on education, we’re dedicated to helping each student shine their brightest by enhancing their opportunities to learn and working to strengthen the teachers that will show them the way. Michigan Virtual is the parent organization of MVLRI. Learn more at michiganvirtual.org.

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