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BRIDGES Design Insights

Part 1: Understanding the Potential of Rural Community College Learners

The Lab’s new Design Insights publication series offers a glimpse into our human-centered design approach to make learning visible, portable, affordable, flexible, and relevant for New Majority Learners.

In this first brief, we share insights from initiatives led and supported by the Lab and introduce our BRIDGES Rural Design Challenge that makes the case for greater investment in rural community colleges. Funded by Ascendium Education Group, we launched this multi-year project in April 2020 to answer this question: How might we strengthen the capacity of rural community colleges to serve as critical economic growth engines for their learners and communities? 

With this design question in mind, this brief explores key barriers and opportunities in rural communities and offers early insights from the project that will be used to inform the development of new models for rural colleges. We explain how our approach, based in human-centered design, will build the capacity of rural community colleges to respond to their regional labor markets and enable greater economic agility for their learners and communities.

The brief offers five key insights that were collected by the BRIDGES team and gathered from interviews and surveys of more than 500 rural community members to help shape our understanding of rural places and their diverse communities:

  1. Rural communities demonstrate a deep commitment to place
  2. Experiences of belonging vary within rural communities
  3. Rural communities benefit from understanding their constituents
  4. Education may be seen as a value and a threat in rural communities
  5. Future efforts should be built from the strengths of rural communities – with rural community colleges at the center

From these design insights, we highlight opportunities noted by the colleges and their community members as they formulate models to prototype and pilot. Through our BRIDGES Rural work, we are deepening our understanding of rural places and people, using and building on their assets to develop innovations that address their unique goals and needs, and catalyzing economic opportunities to improve outcomes for rural learners and their communities.

Learn more and download the full brief here

Want to stay up to date with our BRIDGES Rural work? Follow us on Twitter @BridgesRural for frequent share-outs of our BRIDGES learnings and @eddesignlab for general Lab updates and opportunities to connect!

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