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WGU’s Center for Applied Learning Science Takes Home Innovation Award at Eduventures Summit

Nonprofit innovation lab solves tough problems in higher ed through research and testing

Jun 10, 2019

BOSTON – ACT | NRCCUA, an educational data science and research organization, recognized the Center for Applied Learning Science (CALS) as a winner of its Innovation Award at the Eduventures Summit yesterday in Boston. CALS, a nonprofit innovation lab focused on improving student outcomes, was launched by Western Governors University (WGU) last year.

The Innovation Awards program was created to recognize and showcase the achievements of individuals and organizations that share ACT | NRCCUA’s vision for innovation to improve outcomes to support critical areas of an institution. Award recipients are selected by a jury of higher education leaders and advisors. ACT | NRCCUA and its Eduventures Research division celebrated the award winners at a ceremony and reception during Eduventures Summit, which is co-presented by ACT | NRCCUA and Strada Education Network.

The driving objective of CALS is to learn how to help students learn. The Center works to develop habit-forming learning applications that lead to success in formal educational settings as well as in lifelong learning. Leveraging the knowledge and experience gained through WGU’s more than 115,000 enrolled students and 145,000 graduates, CALS partners with academic institutions and research organizations, collaborating on research, design, and student testing. 

In just its first year, CALS is responsible for the creation of a novel approach to math anxiety that is now being used not only at WGU but at a variety of other institutions. The Center also developed WGU’s Professional Leadership and Communication Course, which focuses entirely on the affective domain of learning, and has produced significant improvements in student outcomes. And CALS is working in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to help students navigate the increasingly complex employment landscape, bringing together experts in human-computer interaction, machine learning, AI, and education.

“Innovation, at its best, is a collaborative effort, and the Center for Applied Learning Science (CALS) exists to incubate and spread the best ideas with the greatest potential to improve student learning—redefining the way we serve students in a changing world,” said Jason Levin, Executive Director of CALS. “We’re honored to receive this award from Eduventures and thank them for recognizing the power of innovation to benefit not just Western Governors University students but learners everywhere.”

Because approximately 6,000 students start WGU each month—not only in spring or fall like most other schools—CALS is able to conduct rigorous research nimbly and at a fast pace, letting students try new designs, measuring the results, making data-driven improvements, and then testing again.

“By embracing new thinking and bold ideas, these teams and institutions are redefining the meaning of excellence and demonstrating the transformative power of higher education for students, educators, and communities,” said Patrick Vogt, CEO of ACT | NRCCUA. “Winners leverage best-in-class processes, technologies, and teams to set themselves apart from the competition. On behalf of all of us at ACT | NRCCUA, I congratulate this year’s group of individuals and institutions.”

About CALS

The Center for Applied Learning Science (CALS), as part of WGU Labs, develops habit-forming learning applications leading to educational attainment and life-long success. We learn how to help people learn. Leveraging advances in cognitive and behavioral sciences and emerging technology, the Center fosters innovation from idea through evaluation, continuously improving student learning at WGU and beyond.


Now part of ACT, The National Research Center for College and University Admissions™ is an educational data science and research organization serving over 1,900 member institutions comprising public and private colleges and universities across the nation. Since 1972, NRCCUA has been a leading provider of data, technology, and programs serving students, high school educators, colleges, and universities from its offices in Lee’s Summit, MO; Boston, MA; New York, NY; and Austin, TX. These solutions represent the link between students making important life decisions and those providing the resources and information they need to succeed in their post-secondary educations and careers. With the launch of Encoura™ Data Lab, the company now combines data science, advanced analytics, Eduventures research, predictive modeling and omnichannel enrollment services in one platform to enable institutions to make real-time strategic and operational decisions to meet their unique enrollment goals and create the highest probability of student success. For more information, visit

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