Designing and launching the Illinois Digital Learning Lab

An educator-led piloting program.


Grand Victoria Foundation and the Joyce Foundation are interested in increasing economic mobility by helping more adult learners gain the education and credentials they need. Adult education is under-resourced and overlooked, and some see education technology as an opportunity to improve the effectiveness and reach of adult education. The $9.5 billion edtech market is growing but largely focused on K-12 education, and we don’t have a clear understanding of what works best for adult learners.


An estimated 2.2 million Illinois adults (18% of the state’s population) have limited skills in reading, writing, math, or English proficiency. How can educators help more people with low basic skills successfully obtain the educational credentials they need to find employment and fully participate in local economies?


Luminary Labs designed and developed the Illinois Digital Learning Lab, a community of adult educators teaching across Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and High School Equivalency programs. Participating educators act as entrepreneurs, researching digital tools, experimenting with a range of technologies in the classroom, and brainstorming solutions to improve learning outcomes.

We began by narrowing the problem the foundations sought to solve, supplementing desk research with design research. We engaged stakeholders — including learners and educators — to better understand their underlying needs. During a participatory design workshop led by Luminary Labs, stakeholders co-created the solution; we then developed an operating plan and hired a program manager to assume day-to-day ownership of the lab.

In addition to evaluating tech tools, the lab has offered an opportunity for leadership development; participating educators have reimagined their roles as innovators and advocates. Read more in the Illinois Digital Learning Lab’s 2018 Field Report.