When a district goes digital, it is doing everything necessary so that students can seamlessly access and use all of the digital learning tools available and teachers can easily manage the administrative functions associated with these tools, such as rostering students into apps and connecting learning applications, tools, and content into the learning system.
When a district wants to “go digital on day one of learning,” it is faced with a greater set of challenges because day one of learning doesn’t always mean the first day of the school year. Day one of learning means the very first day that a student has the opportunity to learn; that might be the first day of the school year or it might be the day a student transfers into a new class or school. The value of digital on day one is that learning starts immediately versus waiting for the IT department for days or even weeks to roster certain systems. This is especially important to transfer students who are in catch-up mode to begin with, so giving them access to all materials on day one is critical to them getting up to speed with other students.
Recently, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) produced a report on the educational impact of access to digital learning resources at home. The report, which is required as a part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), focuses on access to the internet and the types of devices that are available for accessing these resources, but it does not address several other factors that have a tremendous impact on students’ ability to complete assigned tasks in or out of the classroom. Consideration must be given to whether students face issues accessing resources as a result of the same challenges that exist in the classroom, including login issues, lack of user provisioning for a resource, and the challenge of updating rosters, sections, and courses as students transfer in and out of schools and districts. It is for these types of issues that an effective digital on day one strategy can be a practical solution for school districts of any size.
The number of digital learning resources used in education today is continually increasing. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology National Educational Technology Plan indicates that interoperability is a key consideration for the infrastructure needed for digital learning: “A teacher teaching six classes of students a day with multiple apps and tools needs a way to manage learning content, attendance, student progress, and grades. Students and teachers having to keep track of a different username and password to log in to each system wastes time and creates frustration.”
Tech to the rescue
It’s easy to understand why digital on day one could seem like an insurmountable goal. But the good news is, while technology may be the cause of the problem, technology can also be the solution. By reducing the ways in which rostering is done from infinite possibilities down to a single strategy, the time and effort needed to complete the rostering process can be greatly reduced.
Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia went digital on day one via a digital curriculum ecosystem called eClass. eClass encompasses many different functions including digital content, learning, and assessment systems as well as professional development resources, student information, and gradebook functions. The district rosters most of the tools connected to eClass via the IMS Global OneRoster® standard. Steve Flynt, the district’s associate superintendent of school improvement and operations, is committed to the revolutionary learning opportunities the district is providing. “We want to continually find ways to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning through employing improved learning technologies,” he says.
At Hall County Schools in Georgia, students participate in digital learning days when they learn from home instead of going to school. On those days, the district offers learning opportunities in financial literacy, media bias, first aid, and other topics. “[On digital learning days], we may have more than 800,000 page views in our learning management system,” says Aaron Turpin, chief technology officer. “Every asset and tool in these lessons is connected into our learning management system using IMS Global Learning Consortium standards like Learning Tools Interoperability.”
How to integrate your digital apps
Under the leadership of more than 60 member districts, IMS Global’s members have created the K-12 Digital Learning Learning rEvolution Program, a tiered approach to help districts of all sizes improve the way their digital applications work together. The program starts with making a district-wide commitment and evolves into advanced strategies to ensure digital learning systems are learner-ready on day one.
How does a district get there?
- Review the infrastructure recommendations in the 2017 National Educational Technology Plan.
- Complete IMS Global’s K-12 Digital Learning Program Foundation Tier checklist to see if your district is ready for the Foundation Tier of the Digital Learning Program.
- Read Digital Learning Now!’s 12 Keys to Smart EdTech Procurement, including prioritizing data sharing and interoperability.
- Review Future Ready Schools’ Data and Privacy Self Assessment.
- Implement interoperability standards to achieve the goal of digital on day one of learning. Consider adopting the OneRoster standard which allow schools to stop the error-prone burden of manually creating unique class roster data extracts for every digital text, web publisher, and platform provider. Review this OneRoster for Educators presentation for more information.
- Begin to develop your district’s roadmap for integrating digital learning systems together so everything is available in one place.
Once a district has its foundation in place and it is easy to connect digital products together, districts can consider more advanced ecosystem capabilities that enable student-centered learning and other more revolutionary approaches. By adopting interoperability standards, all K-12 school districts can simplify workflows for educators and students, reduce costs and implementation times, minimize risk when designing systems architecture for digital learning, and streamline the gathering of analytics to improve learning outcomes.