Macmillan Learning has announced receipt of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to research and test how digital courseware such as Macmillan’s Achieve platform can help close equity gaps in course completion for underserved students.

The new study will focus on underserved students who are taking college-level introduction to psychology and introduction to sociology courses, which are considered foundational, “gateway courses” to degree completion. Previous research from the Gardner Institute has shown that poor outcomes in such gateway courses often result in significant dropout rates between the first and second years of college, particularly among Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, as well as students experiencing poverty.

Macmillan plans to line up the participation of 40 instructors and 2,000 students at institutions in the U.S. that primarily serve marginalized students. Participants will use selected psychology and sociology course materials within the Achieve platform with the goal of providing insight on the types of resources and tools that can be incorporated into digital learning programs to best support underserved students.

“It concerns us greatly that race, ethnicity, and income can be indicators of students’ success,” Susan Winslow, CEO of Macmillan Learning, said in a statement about the new project. “We designed Achieve to help level the playing field so that all students feel like they belong and can succeed in the college classroom. The research we’re undertaking now in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation should offer new insight into how we can do that even better for marginalized psychology and sociology students.”

Upon completion of the research study, Macmillan Learning will make the findings publicly available and will also create an implementation guide filled with best, evidence-based practices that instructors can use in courseware like Achieve. Instructors at two- or four-year institution who work primarily with Black, Latino, Indigenous, or lower-income students who are interested in participating in the study can find registration information here.

Nancy Acevedo, associate professor at California State University, San Bernardino and author of The Chicana/o/x Dream (Harvard Educational Press, 2020), is one instructor looking to take part in the project. She said in a statement, “I’m looking forward to participating in this research, and seeing firsthand the impact that digital learning platforms can have on metacognition and sense of belonging for Latina/o/x students.”