Macmillan Learning to Help Close Educational Gaps for Underserved Student Populations

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Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Continues Company’s Equity Research with Digital Learning platform Achieve 

New York, April 19, 2022 -- Macmillan Learning, a privately-held, family-owned education publishing and service company announced today a new partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research and test equity-centered enhancements for digital courseware, such as Achieve. 

The research will focus on how a courseware platform such as Achieve can help to close equity gaps in course completion  for historically and presently underserved students who are taking Introduction to Psychology and Introduction to Sociology classes. The grant is part of the foundation’s postsecondary success strategy to eliminate race, ethnicity, and income as predictors of student success.


The Introduction to Psychology and Sociology courses were selected for research because they are considered “gateway courses” -- foundational, credit-bearing, lower-division courses that act as gatekeepers to degree completion. Research from The Gardner Institute found that 15% - 60% of students in gateway courses withdraw or earn a D or F grade. The poor outcomes in gateway courses often lead to significant drop-out rates between the first and second years of college, particularly among Black, Latin, Indigenous students, and students from low-income backgrounds. 

“It concerns us greatly that race, ethnicity, and income can be indicators of students’ success. We designed Achieve to help level the playing field so that all students feel like they belong and can succeed in the college classroom. The research we’re undertaking now in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation should offer new insight into how we can do that even better for marginalized psychology and sociology students,” said Susan Winslow, CEO, Macmillan Learning. 

About the Research

Building on Macmillan Learning’s ongoing research within Achieve on student success, this new research project will undertake additional rigorous product and implementation research and offer insight into resources and tools that can be incorporated into a courseware platform such as Achieve to specifically support underserved students. The research is expected to provide insight on how to develop highly effective courseware that promotes student success through their college experience. In particular, it will focus on three areas:

  • learning what in-program courseware resources most effectively support student metacognition and sense of belonging; 
  • if the inclusion of evidence-based teaching practices in Achieve has a positive relationship with learning outcomes for BLI-LI students; and 
  • how to best develop culturally responsive content for all students. 

BMGF Professor Quote (1).pngResearch for Introduction to Psychology will be done using the best-selling Achieve for Psychology in Everyday Life, 6e, written by David G. Myers and Nathan C. DeWall. Research for the Introduction to Sociology courses will be done using Achieve for OpenStax Sociology, 3e. Participation is estimated at 40 instructors and 2,000 students at institutions in the US that primarily serve marginalized students.

“Students in marginalized communities often have an unequal access to opportunities, which may lead to challenges in successfully navigating their education. I’m looking forward to participating in this research, and seeing firsthand the impact that digital learning platforms can have on metacognition and sense of belonging for Latina/o/x students," said Nancy Acevedo, Associate Professor at California State University, San Bernardino and Chicana/o/x Dream author.

Achieve is Macmillan Learning’s recently launched digital learning platform. It was developed using learning science and in partnership with students and instructors with the goal of supporting students of all levels of motivation and preparedness and to engage them in and out of class to improve their outcomes. Because it was based in learning science, Achieve was the first product exclusively designed for higher education to earn the “Research-Based Design” product certification by Digital Promise. The product certification helps ensure instructors and institutions that the products they select were designed using research-based learning science principles and developed using best practices before using them with their students.

Previous efficacy research on Achieve found that it can help bridge the performance gap often seen among students entering college. That is, the more that less academically prepared students use Achieve, the closer they can come to meeting the performance of their more academically prepared peers. This is because Achieve was co-designed with active learning in mind by more than 7,000 students and 100 leading educators and learning scientists, both working at Macmillan Learning and advising as members of independent review boards. Achieve can be used in traditional, online, hybrid, blended, or a fully “flipped” classroom, with options for both synchronous and asynchronous learning to support student engagement. 

When conducting research, Macmillan Learning adheres to American Psychological Association ethical standards. All research conducted by the company’s Learning Science & Insights team is approved by a third-party Institutional Review Board (IRB) and then approved at individual institutions where required. Having IRB approval enables the company’s researchers to compare course results with detailed information about each student, a critical aspect of understanding the courseware’s impact on marginalized students.

Once completed, Macmillan Learning will make its findings publicly available and create an implementation guide with examples of evidence-based practices that can be used in courseware like Achieve.

Instructors from 2- or 4-year institutions serving predominantly Black, Latino, Indigenous and/or lower-income students can register their interest in participating in the study here.

About Macmillan Learning

Macmillan Learning is a privately-held, family-owned company that improves lives through learning. By linking research to learning practice, we develop pioneering products and learning materials for students that are highly effective and drive improved outcomes. Our engaging content is developed in partnership with the world's best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers. To learn more, please visit or join our Macmillan Community