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New analytics could help measure content efficacy

New analytics tools from uClass aim to give users a better picture of what instructional materials their teachers are using—and whether these resources are effective

analyticsLearning analytics have become a key feature within many school software programs. These tools can help educators understand trends and patterns in student learning, helping them target their instruction more effectively to improve achievement.

Most of these tools focus on analyzing student performance—but what if educators had tools that could measure the effectiveness of the instructional resources they’re using as well?

That’s the idea behind new analytics tools developed by an ed-tech company called uClass.

uClass is an instructional platform that contains thousands of vetted and curated video clips, lesson plans, and other open educational resources from around the web—and school districts can add their own instructional resources as well, by uploading and tagging these materials within the system.

uClass’s latest analytics tools can show users which resources are “trending” across the district—that is, which resources have been used the most in a give time frame—as well as which resources have been used to teach certain standards.

The goal is to give administrators valuable information about what content and strategies are working most effectively, as well as maybe which resources are being underused within a school or district, said Leah Schrader, uClass community manager.

“We were collecting all this data in the background … and we thought, ‘Let’s build a tool to put this information to use,’” Schrader said.

(Next page: More details about these analytics tools—and an invitation for schools to pilot them)

Administrators can see which content has been used to cover which standards, for individual schools or for the district as a whole. They can also see which files or resources are being used most frequently across a school or district.

Teachers can use these tools to see what resources their peers are using most often to address certain standards, as well as what content exists within the district to teach to specific standards.

They can also use the system to answer questions such as: “When I got these results from my students, what content was I using to teach with at the time?” Schrader said.

By comparing this information to student outcomes, teachers and administrators can “make correlative claims” about the efficacy of instructional content and its use in that particular setting, she said.

Users would have to make these kinds of comparisons on their own, however, as the uClass system does not provide this level of detail itself.

Jessica Lura, director of strategic initiatives and partnerships for the Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, Calif., said she has been using the new uClass analytics tools to get a better sense of what resources her school’s teachers are using.

“I see it as a way to help support teachers,” she said. “It gives me a view into what they are thinking.”

Tracking and monitoring what content is being used in schools, and whether this content is effective, “is so important today,” said Ray Ackerlund, vice president of marketing for Skyward—especially with so many digital resources available to educators.

Skyward makes a Student Management Suite spanning data, classroom, learning, and communication management. Ackerlund said his company’s system provides analytics to measure student performance, but not the efficacy of learning materials. That’s an additional step users would have to take on their own, he said, by matching the learning tool to a student’s performance to see if it had its intended outcome.

uClass is looking for schools to help pilot its new analytics tools and offer their feedback to the company. The deadline for applying is Sept. 26, and educators who are interested can find more information here.

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