Research at the Lab

User-centered research — which we both conduct and apply in the field — drives our work at the Education Design Lab, and it starts with a “How Might We …” question.

A human-centered design process encourages you to form a question, build an understanding of the user, test through prototypes, pilot, and launch.



The Lab’s ultimate goal is to scale the best pilots to reach large numbers of learners, based on independent evaluation and learner input.

Our most notable scaling initiative is the Community College Growth Engine, which forms communities of practice around rethinking the degree as a series of micro-pathways to allow learners ultimate flexibility to come in and out of the workforce with meaningful credentials.

The Lab's origin story

In 2013, the Lab was incubated at George Mason University, where we explored what an “inclusive” public university might accomplish. We road-tested our concept for a “design challenge,” meant to bring all parts of a college together to reimagine a problem or barrier through the eyes of what we later termed “new majority learners.”

Education Design Lab founder Kathleen deLaski (in the front row, second from left) and team co-designing with learners at George Mason University  during the Lab’s first design challenge.

The first challenge, “How might we capture learning outside the classroom in ways that will be meaningful to employers?,” was seen as an exploration of how to level the hiring playing field for learners who had to work outside of school or whose best resume skills came from lived experience.

That research led to our internationally recognized framework for durable skill assessment and our ongoing badging campaign.

Latest research at the Lab

Data Collaborative for a Skills-Based Economy
The Lab is the first to lead a groundbreaking effort that collects data directly from education providers and connects their data with national organizations, government agencies, and others to uncover how new education-to-work models can support economic mobility for new majority learners.


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Accelerating Pathways: Designers in Residence 2.0
This program is building regional ecosystems that support accelerated associate degree attainment for students who are Black, Latino, or from low-income backgrounds. The second cohort builds on the Lab’s extensive research + experience supporting higher education institutions through ongoing initiatives such as the Community College Growth Engine, the Single Moms Success Design Challenge, and BRIDGES Rural initiative.


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We’re conducting two research-focused pilots on skills assessments that can validate a learner’s life and working experiences as currency for future opportunities.


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Thought leadership

We commit significant resources to the sharing of the Lab’s learnings and insights from a decade of working with institutions and employers.

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