DARPA’s AI Tools for Adult Learning


DARPA’s AI Tools for Adult Learning seeks your innovative ideas that leverage technology and
advanced computational methods to help adults learn complex subjects required for national security.
DARPA will award a total of $750,000 to fund winning submissions.


Organized by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).

The Need

Technological advances and changes in economic conditions will continue to shift the skills needed to compete in the workforce. The World Economic Forum predicts that, by 2025, 50% of all workers worldwide will need reskilling to compete in the market.

In a post-pandemic economy, gaps remain for access to education and upskilling for historically marginalized learners. COVID-19
disproportionately impacted the unemployment rates of disparate demographic groups, such as people identifying as Black or Hispanic. Furthermore, the new reliance on technology in jobs has created another obstacle for low-income workers. More attention and resources are needed to ensure that pathways to well-paying jobs are accessible.

Addressing the need for reskilling and upskilling will have the potential to dramatically strengthen the United States’ economic and national security far into the future. Globally, the World Economic Forum projects that investments in upskilling could increase global GDP by $6.5 trillion and create 5.3 million new jobs by 2023. 

New self-directed tools are vital to ensuring all workers master the skills needed to obtain jobs for today’s and tomorrow’s economy. These innovations have the potential to help adults with the greatest need obtain well-paying jobs and close skills gaps that will limit economic growth.

The Opportunity

DARPA’s AI Tools for Adult Learning aims to spur the development of generalizable AI tools to enhance adult learning of complex subjects necessary for the current and future national security workforce. Successful tools will create customized learning experiences that enhance learning and skills development among adults.

DARPA invites technologists, digital learning platform creators, researchers, students and teachers to propose innovative tools or technologies that address the critical challenges facing adult learners.

Please note: DARPA’s AI Tools for Adult Learning is open to United States citizens, permanent residents, or U.S. entities. Non-U.S. participants can participate as part of a team but are not eligible to directly receive any portion of the award. If you are based outside of the U.S., consider applying for the Learning Engineering Tools Competition.

DARPA is especially interested in surfacing ideas that leverage intelligent tutoring to allow adult learners to self-direct learning and develop critical skills. A growing body of evidence demonstrates the power of tutoring as a means to teach all learners quickly and effectively. Yet, programs that rely on human tutors are costly. Recent advances in AI have made way for computer-based tutoring systems that use AI to personalize instruction in real-time based on learner responses. These systems have the potential to drastically reduce the cost of high-quality tutoring, and therefore increase access for all learners.

DARPA will award a total of $750,000 through a multi-phased selection process that provides participants time for ideation, team-building, and project refinement.

In addition to receiving funds, winners will have the opportunity to connect with prominent learning science researchers, ed tech leaders, and representatives of large philanthropic organizations to scale their work.



For sixty years, DARPA has held to a singular and enduring mission: to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies. Its innovations over the years include the Internet, automated voice recognition and language translation, and Global Positioning System receivers small enough to embed in myriad consumer devices.

DARPA reaches for transformational change instead of incremental advances, working within an innovation ecosystem that includes academic, corporate and governmental partners. DARPA addresses challenges broadly, spanning the spectrum from deep science to systems to capabilities, but is ultimately driven by the desire to make a difference.



Read the DARPA AI Tools for Adult Learning FAQs.

Email: DARPATools@the-learning-agency.com