Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Hamburger Nav

Recently, the National Science Foundation funded SafeInsights, a $90 million initiative to enable research on student learning while safeguarding privacy. As leaders of the SEERNet network, we welcome and celebrate this important next step in accelerating improvement of student learning by bringing research closer to educational practice. Both SafeInsights and SEERNet align to a broader mission: by enabling digital learning platforms as research infrastructure, we work towards a future of research that makes a direct and meaningful difference in learning experiences for millions of students.

Both SafeInsights and SEERNet build on powerful trends in education and educational research:

  • Learning on digital platforms has increased, and leads to better data on how students experience the process of learning, where the barriers lie, and ways to help students.
  • Research communities such as Educational Data Mining, Learning at Scale, and Learning Analytics are preparing thousands of researchers to use these types of data to connect learning sciences to real world data, and also to design and evaluate innovations.
  • Methods for protecting privacy and for organizing how researchers gain access to data have improved, making it possible to standardize a higher level of safeguards (compared to the tradition in which every researcher negotiates their own relationship to data sources).

Beginning in 2021, the US Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences funded SEERNet. We have been working with five specific digital learning platforms to enable researchers to compare approaches to improving student learning on the platforms, each of which serves at least 100,000 students annually. Our goals include both contributing to scientific knowledge, but also identifying changes that the platforms can immediately implement. Currently, two research projects are active. Dr. Avery Closser and Dr. David Purpura of Purdue University are exploring the impact of perceptual cues in mathematics through their study, “Now I See It: Supporting Flexible Problem Solving in Mathematics through Perceptual Scaffolding in ASSISTments.” Dr. Cristina Zepeda and Dr. Kelley Durkin of Vanderbilt University are focused on enhancing mathematics learning through metacognitive supports in MATHia, in collaboration with Carnegie Learning. Their research aims to empower middle school students to regulate their learning and experience math in a more engaging and effective way. We anticipate approximately 10 more research projects will join the SEERNet network later in 2024. 

SafeInsights will advance the infrastructure piece beyond what SEERNet can do, and we eagerly anticipate these advances. For example, SEERNet does not create a standard infrastructure that can be implemented by multiple platforms; it also does not support connecting data across platforms. SafeInsights will accomplish both of these important next steps. 

SafeInsights can also learn from the ongoing work of SEERNet, for example in how to inform researchers of how they can use this type of infrastructure, how to engage and support researchers, and how to create policies and procedures that support the work. Several members of SEERNet (including Digital Promise) are expected to be directly involved in SafeInsights, and we expect to strengthen the connections between the two efforts as we both engage similar research communities and educational institutions.

Together, we look forward to building the infrastructure needed so that research can directly address the needs to improve students’ learning experiences on digital platforms, leading to greater engagement, inclusivity, and learning outcomes.

To learn more about SafeInsights and stay informed of future progress, visit
Stay informed about new SEERNet updates by joining the SEERNet interest list and join the discussion on Twitter/X with #SEERNet.