Digital Learning

Digital Learning Challenge FAQs

Digital Learning Challenge Q&A Call

January 10, 2017; 1:00 PM CST

Thanks to all of those who joined the Q&A call on Tuesday, January 10th. The call was recorded and you can download the audio here:

If your question is not answered here, please email, subject line: Digital Learning Challenge. As a reminder, applications close at 5:00 PM CST on January 20th.

Where can I find additional information on the Digital Learning Challenge (DL Challenge)?

For specifics on the initiative, please see the following pages of the Call to Action:

  • Page 4:                SCE Background and Digital Learning Program History
  • Pages 5-6:          DL Challenge Overview
  • Page 7:                Initiative Objectives
  • Page 8:                Participant Eligibility, Initiative Components, Challenge Questions
  • Page 9:                Award Information, Application Review Criteria
  • Page 10:              Application Submission Information (link, deadlines, etc.)
  • Page 11:               Application Questions
  • Page 12:              Initiative Timeline


Are fiscally-sponsored organizations eligible?

Only 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible to apply. We will also accept applications from programs that have a fiscal sponsor.

Can you provide additional clarification on the eligible age range?

The primary age of the youth in your program must fall within the 13-18 age range. Programs that serve a subset of the 13-18 age range or that have some youth that fall outside of the age range are eligible to apply as long as the programs main focus is teens.

Please be sure to indicate the percentage 13-18 year old students in your program in the application.

Is there a specific number of students our program should serve?

There is no minimum or maximum number of youth program participants required to apply. We are looking for a diverse set of program types and sizes. We will focus on understanding what you do with the youth you serve.

Can we start a new program with this grant money or are only organizations with established programs eligible to apply?

Applications will not be accepted for new or pilot programs. Programs must demonstrate some evidence of impact of 21st century skill growth with teens using digital tools. However, you have flexibility in how you use the grant funds. Please see the section on award allocation on page 7 for additional details.

Do I need to apply to the initiative with a partner?

This application does not require programs to apply with a partner. SCE is interested in learning how you, a youth-serving afterschool organization, have previously partnered with other organizations to implement and develop your program.

The partnership component of the grant comes from the learning community process: the Challenge will be a partnership between the selected afterschool programs, the evaluation team and SCE, and a secondary team of HR professionals, supply-side distributors and developers and system intermediaries.

Are you only considering applicants that are following an evidence-based program?

We would like all applicants to demonstrate that their programs are based on strong theories of change and have some kind of data that informs their practice. Your program may not be using a not using pre-packaged evidenced-base program but is still producing results.

My organization is run by a public/private/charter school, am I eligible to apply? 

Schools that run an afterschool program are eligible to apply as long as the program takes place outside of the school day. A community partner that offers an afterschool program that is housed in or in partnership with the school may also apply. Please highlight the afterschool program in your application, while also addressing how that program fits into your overall mission.

My program runs from August – June/My program is a year-round program with both an afterschool program and summer components. Are we eligible to apply?

You are eligible to apply. Organizations must apply with programs that operate outside of school but during the 2017-2018 school year. The evaluation team will work with you to schedule site-visits between November 2017 – January 2018. Please see the program evaluation section on page 5 for additional information.

My program is a summer program. Are we eligible to apply?

Summer programs are not eligible because of the program design and evaluation schedule.

My organization is run by a government entity or recreation agency, am I eligible to apply?

Yes, you are eligible to apply, since you are eligible to receive grant funds. Be sure to apply with one afterschool program at one specific rec center and discuss how that fits within the larger initiative.

Can programs apply from outside the Chicagoland area? Is there is a regional focus to this funding initiative?

Yes, you can apply from outside the Chicagoland area. The Challenge is a national initiative.

We are looking for a diverse set of program types and sizes located in different places. We want to understand how organizations have overcome challenges and barriers in your own community to implement a program that impacts the lives of the youth you serve.

My organization partners with afterschool providers/convenes a network of afterschool programs. Are we, as a provider/system intermediary, eligible to apply? Or is this opportunity geared toward a single afterschool program?

The initiative is seeking to identify direct-service organizations to understand their practices as it relates to 21st century skill growth using digital tools. In the application, the direct-service organization should discuss their partnership with you.

We encourage you to share this opportunity with your network of afterschool programs. We will keep you updated on how we will involve intermediaries as we move through the process.

Does a national program working with local partners and able to adjust their approach in local communities, still qualify?

Please encourage top digital media programs from your network to apply. In the application, the organizations should discuss their partnership with you.

Our organization has just one site, but we offer a variety of programs. Do we have to select one particular offering or can we submit all of our programming for consideration?

If you’d like to be considered for more than one program at the same site, you would have to send separate application submissions for each. We will only select one program from within a single organization. Please note that your program must align with the 2017-2018 school year.


What is the timeline of the learning community?

The initiative will run from May 2017 until December 2018. The first convening is June 12-13 in Chicago. If your staff representatives are unable to attend that meeting, then you should not apply for the initiative. Please see page 12 of the Call to Action for more timeline specifics.

Could you share concrete examples of developers/distributors and intermediaries that might be engaged by the Learning Community?

A secondary component of this initiative is to understand how we can support partnerships and growth among informal learning environments, system intermediaries and supply-side developers and distributors in order to equip teens with the 21st century skills they need to thrive as individuals, professionals and citizens. Our intention is to pursue multiple avenues to share this information with educators and informal learning practitioners so they will be better equipped to use digital media in their work.

We want to hear from you, in your applications, about the digital media products and services you currently use, and which you would like to use. This feedback will help us inform who we identify and connect with throughout the initiative.

Do you have an estimated amount of time that our program staff member will spend on meetings and reporting outside of program implementation?

The learning community requires full and active participation from two members of your team: a key senior leader and an organization member who has substantial experience and knowledge of the program.

We understand the lift required of the senior leader, however, in our experience, the success of the learning community requires buy-in from senior leadership in order to prioritize and advocate for skill-building in your organization.

For more specific information on the time requirement, please see the program evaluation section on page 5.


What types of evidence of a program’s impact should we include in the application and how would you like it presented? 

Please provide findings from evaluations, questionnaires, case studies, interviews, videos, or other qualitative or quantitative means.

This may be different for each organization because we are not asking for applicants to show us specific outcome data on a specific set of skills. Please tell your own story about your own organization and the impact it has.

Is the evaluation team affiliated with a university?

Yes. We are in the final stages of contract deliberations with our evaluators who have been working in digital youth program evaluation for many years. We will be announcing details of the partnership soon.

What were the criteria you used to determine evaluation team?

We went through a rigorous process that required experience in at least two of four of the following areas:

  • Evaluating place-based/asset-based programs
  • Evaluating digital learning programs/tools/services
  • Analyzing and measuring 21st century skill growth and outcomes
  • Evaluating OST programs

Our selected evaluation team has extensive experience in each of these areas. We are excited to announce the partnership soon.

What will the data collection and evaluation entail?

Currently the data collection and evaluation process entails six key components:

  1. An artifact analysis in which the partner will provide materials about your program to the evaluation team;
  2. Obtain consent forms and administer pre-post teen questionnaires;
  3. Interviews with program staff and organization leaders;
  4. Coordinate with the evaluation team to host a 2-3 day site visit that will include observations, stakeholder interviews, and teen focus groups;
  5. Collaborate with the evaluation team to implement a youth voice component of the project; and
  6. Information gathering and sharing during in-person and virtual convenings.

Should grantees have their own research and evaluation capacity/partnerships?

The work with the evaluation team isn’t a substitute for having your own evaluator or evaluation process. If you have the resources, working with an evaluator inform ongoing improvements and outcomes for youth. If you do have an evaluator, the Challenge evaluators will work with them so as not to duplicate efforts and ensure that data collection is complementary. If you don’t have an evaluator, we expect that the data collection and findings that come out of this process will help inform your programs.

Do you plan to develop or pilot new measures in the Challenge?

No, our goal with this initiative is not to develop or pilot new measures, rather we want to understand how you define 21st century skills, what tools you use to build those skills in teens, the measures you use to evaluate these skills and what data you collect to inform 21st century skill growth.

How much input will the grantees have on the development of the research process?

The learning community will work together to ensure this process is helpful and informative for all participants. The findings from the learning community will ultimately inform the production of practical resources to assist other youth-serving organization with ways to incorporate digital tools into programs. The evaluation team will be responsible for the production of the tools with input from the partners.

What is the estimated time commitment that organization staff have to devote to the evaluation component project (e.g. frequency of conference calls, length of convenings, Field Guide preparation, etc.)

There will be three convenings throughout the program period that will be about 1.5 days each and take place in Chicago. There will also be three virtual convenings that will be up to three hours each. There will be some time toward the beginning of the initiative when you will participate in interviews and provide documents to the evaluator, and then more intensive time later when the evaluation team makes site visits.

The site visits will be approximately 2-3 days and be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time. You will also be expected to facilitate data collection including questionnaire administration (including obtaining consent) and a youth photovoice project.


How many grants do you expect to award?

We expect to award 5-7 grants to afterschool organizations serving teens.

How is the amount of each recipient’s award determined? Is it based on number of program participants, program budget, or other? 

Due to the time and dedication of the program staff, all organizations will receive the same size grant of up to $100,000.

What is the duration of the grant?/At the end of the first year, is there a grant renewal process?

The learning community will take place over approximately 18 months: the first convening will be in June 2017, the program evaluation will begin in September 2017 and end in May 2018, and the final convening will be in July 2018. Following the convening, we expect program partners to provide input and feedback on any final materials, due at the close of the grant period in December 2018. There will be no grant renewal process and we will disperse multiple payments throughout the course of the Challenge.

Please see page 12 of the Call to Action for an initiative timeline.

How will recipients be chosen aside from the criteria listed?

We are looking for exemplars of different size, location and shape. We have a rigorous selection process and grantees require board approval.

Does this grant cover supporting staff for the afterschool programs?/Will this grant allow the purchase of updated technical equipment?

The awards must be spent on supporting ongoing digital learning programming. This can include staff salaries, tools, operations, professional development and training, and data collection/measurement systems. We will ask for more specifics on how you intend to spend the money during the RFP process.

SCE will cover all convening-related expenses separately.

Are the funds to support programming, participation in a learning community or both?

While the awards do not need to be fully devoted to facilitating the collaboration involved in this program, we do require each program to designate at least two key staff members to take full and active participation in the learning community. For more information on the time requirements please see the program evaluation section on page 5.


Is there a budget requirement?

In this phase, we do not require a proposed budget allocation for the grant.

Is there a particular format you would like to see for the budget submission?

No. Please submit as a single PDF, your current general program, total youth services budget (required for multiservice organizations), and your annual organization budget.

Are there organization budget maximums or minimums that we need to meet in order to apply?

No. We are looking for programs that can demonstrate impact on 21st century skill growth with teens. We want to learn about the creative ways you’ve utilized the resources in your community.

Are evaluation costs included in the grant, covered separately by SCE, or do we need to find additional funding to cover evaluation costs?

SCE will provide the evaluation team with funding to support their efforts.

Should we be accepted, what are the specific reporting actions we would need to take?

The initiative does not require the program staff to draft the final deliverables, but they will be required to provide input in the content and style of the materials. Please be prepared to actively participate in the learning community and ensure that your organization has the administrative capacity, infrastructure, and motivation to participate in all initiative activities.


How does SCE define/prioritize 21st century skill growth?

We frame 21st century skills as a broad set of knowledge, skills, and work habits that are believed to be critically important to success in today’s world. We welcome applications from organizations that are focusing on different skills and dispositions than those discussed in the application; we want to know what’s most important and effective for you and the youth that you serve.

As an organization, we promote shared ownership and empower partner organizations to pursue solutions in ways that work best for them. Our goal is to focus on how new models of teaching and learning are activated, rather than on the language used to describe them.

Is there a particular type of digital tool my program must use?

There is no stipulation on the types of digital tools you use. Our goal is to learn how you encourage youth to explore their own interests using these tools and how you connect those learnings to the challenges faced in their own lives and communities outside the program.

How important is staff training and what kind of information would you like for us to provide?

Please be sure to describe your organizational management strategies, including how you train and support staff to facilitate programs. If applicable, please include any local or online professional development sources that you use.


Are there particular at-risk populations that you are interested in addressing through this challenge?

Youth can be at-risk in a number of different ways. At SCE, we think about vulnerability in terms of access. SCE is interested in partnering with organizations who serve youth who may otherwise have limited access to digital learning opportunities.


What does success look like?

The ultimate goal of this initiative is to better understand how we can support partnerships and growth among informal learning environments, system intermediaries, and supply-side developers and distributors. Our intention is to share this information across multiple avenues and sectors to ensure educators and informal learning practitioners are equipped to use digital media in their work, and ultimately engage youth in more meaningful learning experiences.