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Northeastern teams with Verizon to improve K-12 education

When communications giant Verizon wanted to figure out the most effective ways to maximize the impact of a K–12 education website it has developed, it knew whom to turn to: Northeastern University.—created by the Verizon Foundation—brings the resources of the Smithsonian Institution, the Literacy Network, ArtsEdge and other educational organizations to teachers, parents and students, giving them free access to literacy tools, educational games and classroom-ready lesson plans. The website marshals 21st-century technology to improve K–12 education and student achievement across all subject areas.

Now Verizon officials are interested in refining Thinkfinity’s tools so they align more closely with the needs of teachers and other users. That’s where the experts at Northeastern come in.

Richard Hanna and Scott Swain, both professors of marketing in the College of Business Administration, will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of Thinkfinity using focus groups, teacher/parent surveys, and a website-usability assessment. A $200,000 grant from Verizon will fund Hanna and Swain as they conduct the research and analyze the responses.

“This project represents a terrific example of how the College of Business Administration can partner with companies to support their corporate social-responsibility missions,” says Thomas Moore, the college’s dean.

Hanna and Swain say the project is aimed at “unlocking the massive potential” of Thinkfinity, adding they hope to uncover how the site can better benefit student learning and parental involvement in children’s education.

On August 10, Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun welcomed Donna C. Cupelo, regional president of Verizon New England, to campus and officially received the $200,000 grant for the project.

“By partnering with Northeastern University, the Verizon Foundation will be able to better determine how to maximize web-based curriculum to advance elementary and secondary learning,” says Cupelo. “This research also will help us with future website development, investment and strategic decision-making around how to best serve the K–12 education community with Thinkfinity.”

Northeastern and Verizon have built a strong relationship over the years. Currently, 282 alumni work at Verizon. In October 2009, the School of Law’s Domestic Violence Institute received a grant from the Verizon Foundation to support domestic-violence survivors in Massachusetts.

The Verizon alliance is just the latest in a series of corporate partnerships Northeastern has entered into to expand research and experiential-learning opportunities.

For instance, the university recently launched a co-op program with IBM to place students in business roles around the world. Another partnership with the Santander Group will extend Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in International Business program to Brazil.

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