TERC partners on new National Science Foundation large-scale research infrastructure for education

SafeInsights brings together digital learning platforms, institutions, and a world-class team to enable research studies to inform efficacy, improvement, and innovation in teaching and learning.

Cambridge, MA – (April 29, 2024) — TERC received a subaward on the newly announced National Science Foundation (NSF) SafeInsights, a five-year, $90 million research and development (R&D) infrastructure for inclusive education research. Led by OpenStax-Rice University, SafeInsights is a large-scale education research hub that will safely connect digital learning platforms and educational institutions to learn about learning. This initiative represents the National Science Foundation’s largest single investment in R&D infrastructure for education at national scale, and SafeInsights will be the first national infrastructure of its kind. 

“TERC is excited to have its DataArcade be SafeInsight’s only game-based learning platform, providing unprecedented access for learning scientists to study game-based learning alongside other innovative digital learning platforms,” said Elizabeth Rowe, Director of Research at EdGE at TERC.

SafeInsights includes a multidisciplinary network of 80 collaborating institutions and partners, including more than a dozen pioneering digital learning platforms that together reach tens of millions of students. With a $1.27M subaward, TERC will join together with researchers and large-scale, digital learning platforms to enable privacy-preserving research studies to better understand student learning. 

For nearly six decades, TERC has been dedicated to advancing equitable learning opportunities for all by engaging in impactful research, STEM content and curriculum development, professional development, program evaluation, and technology innovation. Among its notable accomplishments is the development of DataArcade™, a multimodal data collection and management tool. Created by researchers from the Educational Gaming Environments Group (EdGE) at TERC, DataArcade enables real-time exploratory analysis of captured game player data by researchers, designers, and educators. This innovative tool has previously been utilized in game-based learning research, exploring learning in TERC-developed titles such as Zoombinis, Impulse, Quantum-Spectre and Ravenous.

According to national polls conducted by the Data Quality Campaign, 86% of teachers recognize the importance of research in effective teaching. However, the majority of teachers must individually piece together research-informed teaching and learning strategies, often with limited resources. 

SafeInsights studies will help us understand how students learn best, no matter who they are, what they are learning, or how they are learning. The insights gained can lead to the development of better, research-informed teaching tools and practices, promoting educational equity.

“We know research-informed teaching and learning works. Yet, it’s still too hard to conduct large-scale, reliable research and then apply the results for more personalized experiences when students need it most,” said Richard Baraniuk, Rice professor, OpenStax founder, and project lead. “SafeInsights will safely accelerate affordable, rapid-cycle studies across multiple digital learning platforms, leading to more effective tools, practices, and next-level innovations.”

SafeInsights stringently protects learner privacy. SafeInsights uses a unique technique, called “secure data enclaves,” which unlocks valuable insights without revealing any student information to researchers or moving student information from the learning tools that it safely lives in today.

“We hope that TERC’s involvement in SafeInsights will help advance the learning science behind game-based learning among a more diverse, inclusive group of researchers. These researchers can study game-based learning with a broader swath of school populations than TERC can alone,” said Rowe.

To learn more about SafeInsights and stay informed of future progress, please visit safeinsights.org.

About TERC

TERC is a Cambridge, MA based nonprofit made up of teams of forward-thinking STEM experts dedicated to innovation and creative problem solving. TERC believes great futures are built through math and science.    

For more than 55 years, TERC has taken a learner-centered approach to education in both formal and informal settings. At the frontier of theory and practice, TERC’s work encompasses research, content and curriculum development, technology innovation, professional development, and program evaluation. Through TERC’s curricula and programs, students develop the knowledge and skills needed to ask questions, solve problems, and expand their opportunities. TERC’s professional development helps teachers and facilitators utilize new tools, materials, and inquiry-based strategies to enrich the learners’ experience.     

With a passion for and commitment to social justice, TERC strives to create level playing fields for all learners, reaching millions of students each year. TERC imagines a future where teachers and students are members of vibrant communities engaged in creative, rigorous, and reflective inquiry.   

To learn more, please visit www.terc.edu.