Bill Gates is giving American colleges more money in a effort to improve online education. According to an article by Steven Bertoni in Forbes:

The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation pledged $20 million in grants for businesses and universities to develop online programs to better train students in the basic skills they’ll need to thrive college.

On a conference call, Gates said he envisions a university network that will allow students to watch videos of the planet’s best lecturers and teachers wherever they can pick up a Wi-Fi signal. He also sees the development of programs and metrics that will identify and fill holes in a student’s basic skills.

This money will apparently mostly go to community colleges. The foundation is planning another round of funding for high schools later on.

While the real effectiveness of online education is somewhat debatable, the idea here is to use online education to scale up effective education, cheaply.

As Dayo Olopade demonstrated last month in the American Prospect, Bill Gates plays a very interesting role in facilitating global innovation; once Gates gives something money that thing starts to matter, even if it doesn’t really work.

But as the Gates Foundation explains, online is worth a try:

We are also investing in alternative delivery models—including online and competency-based programs—that can accelerate remedial education for those who are behind and bring higher education to more students at a lower cost.

The project is called the Next Generation Learning Challenges. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer