Educators at every level today are exploring and incorporating the teaching and learning benefits that digital curriculum affords over traditional, print–based learning. Some field experts see digital curriculum as a real watershed, poised to break through education’s “iron triangle” by increasing access to and lowering cost of instruction, and simultaneously improving its quality. As we develop the next generation adaptive platform and digital curriculum solutions, we’re enabling the following critical benefits:
Deeper insight into student learning performance (without time-consuming, boring assessments): Digital curriculum, combined with advanced statistical modeling techniques, enables significantly improved insight into student learning performance at a more nuanced level than that of previous assessment techniques. By continuously collecting and assessing students’ activity data as they progress through digital curriculum, we can dynamically estimate learning mastery against a set of outcomes, with no increase in faculty workload. It is possible to replace humdrum periodic quizzing with dynamic learning analytic dashboards to measure performance on an ongoing basis, in real-time. The benefit is faster instructional intervention and improved student performance.
Personalized learning, tailored to individual student needs: Current cognitive science underscores how digital curriculum creates the foundation for personalized, adaptive learning. Ongoing research at CMU and elsewhere explores how data, derived from student activity within the digital curriculum, is used to predictively estimate whether students are successfully mastering key learning outcomes. For students with low learning estimates, we can now dynamically present recommendations, or even additional practice, based on specific skill gaps. The power in the Acrobatiq model is the ability to generate learning estimates at the skill level – or lowest level of knowledge required to master a learning outcome (LO). By first “mapping” or “Skill Graphing” LO’s to component skills, and then aligning content, practice, and assessments to each component skill, we can measure and estimate a student’s precise learning status. Without this critical computational model, we merely capture what the student has done, and not the concepts and skills the student has truly learned and mastered.
Project-based learning – including problem-based learning: Digital curriculum and assessments at first glance can bring to mind boring, limited assessment formats such as multiple choice and true/false questions. After all, if the computer scores the assessment, it has to be either a 1 or 0, right? The good news is that today’s digital curriculum and assessment capabilities are dramatically more enriching and exciting. The newest capability is entwining human-graded rubrics in such a way that the computational model that estimates learning can also integrate human-graded rubric scores. A new range of project-based and problem-based learning opportunities are made possible, in which performance assessment can be computer-generated, human-generated or even both! We know that when students participate in relevant contextual projects or problem-based learning, they are more engaged and able to connect what they’re learning with real life. Learning is more concrete and therefore, more long lasting.
Authoring tools to continuously improve digital curriculum with surgical-like precision: Course completion rates, we know, are a significant matter. Educators and administrators, across the board but perhaps particularly at community colleges, are working to de-mystify the college completion pathway so that students can quickly ascertain specific course degree requirements. The debate regarding which courses could or should be included in a degree pathway is a deep concern, and has profound implications for improving degree completion rates. Establishing general education guidelines across programs, and providing students with high quality delivery alternatives for gateway gen ed courses like, for example, exemplar online courses enable, will help more students complete courses and programs on time – and potentially with better learning outcomes than traditional print-based learning materials. With digital curriculum, we can now ensure a high quality standard by using deep learning learning data to reveal course constriction points, and then making surgical-like improvements to content, assessments, or activities as needed. Each student cohort that completes a course produces a raft of good learning data for educators, administrators, and course designers to examine. However, insightful learning data is only beneficial if it’s actionable. Educators need easy-to-use authoring tools to quickly and efficiently modify, adapt and/or customize digital curriculum to both “make it their own” and ensure a complete, cohesive, and quality learning experience. As an important component to our next generation digital curriculum development strategy, we are also releasing a brand-new adaptive learning authoring environment so faculty, instructional designers and others can adapt and modify digital curriculum.
Preparing students for the 21st century workforce with competency based learning: Given the rapid pace of technology application in almost every facet of our lives, the more we prepare students for success in a technology-saturated workplace, the better. Today’s entry-level employee in almost any industry must possess written, oral and digital literacy skills. By incorporating digital curriculum in the classroom, students can build the digital literacy skills critically necessary for professional success.
While most educators, instructional designers and student success content providers clearly acknowledge the benefits of digital curriculum, transitioning to digital curriculum takes more than just will. Moving forward from traditional print-based learning resources such as textbooks can be challenging, and professional development is key. Surveys by industry associations including the Software Information and Industry Association suggest strongly that educators desire to experiment and integrate digital curriculum, but require support and assistance to do so seamlessly. To be meaningful, this support must go beyond a simple summer two-day training session on the latest software application or new LMS feature. So that investments in digital curriculum are maximized at every level, educators on the front lines are partnering with administrative leaders to develop robust and ongoing faculty training, led by experts in the field. Organizations like Quality Matters, for example, produce numerous professional development opportunities for faculty, instructional designers, and administrative leaders to improve the quality of online and blended courses, including evaluating and developing digital curriculum. At Acrobatiq, as we produce and develop digital curriculum, we’re also thinking hard about how best to support professional development initiatives and enable robust and ongoing training for educational leaders looking to expand their teaching practice.
So while these are not the only benefits of digital curriculum, they certainly represent some of the more interesting. Over the next six months, Acrobatiq, in partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and our institutional partners, will be releasing what the Gates Foundation is calling NextGen Adaptive Courseware. We’re focused on developing for the largest-enrolling, general education gateway courses that stand to most improve from digital transformation and the continuous course enrichment it yields.
To learn more about Acrobatiq’s adaptive platform and digital course curriculum development roadmap, or to join our team as a reviewer, contributor or pilot adopter, please contact me today.