I started with K12 in 2004 because I wanted to help develop digital learning tools to enhance students’ experiences. Over the past 14 years, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I never expected to stay at one company for so long, but I believe so much in the work that we do – and in its ability to be a great equalizer in America’s educational system.
Developing hundreds of courses and tens of thousands of learning tools has been no easy task. But, our team is committed to creating the best learning experiences we can for students. We also believe in capitalizing on the multiplier effect – we want to use what we learn from past students to create the best learning environments for current and future students. Here are a few of our best practices in developing innovative, quality content for online schools across the country.
We personalize learning experiences across states – always keeping the students’ needs in mind.
It may sound simple, but content that works for students in Texas might not work for those in Wisconsin. We have been and are continuing to develop innovative tools that adapt to each student’s needs within every state.
Naturally, challenges faced in a virtual classroom are often different than those in a brick-and-mortar one and instead of shying away from those hurdles, we embrace them and use them to motivate us to find new solutions to problems. Students attend online class sessions led by teachers but also spend time in online lessons on their own. We noticed that one area where students struggled was being able to raise their hands to ask for help during their work in online lessons.
So, we developed the “Help Me” functionality that has two sub-components to support students. First, it has “Recommender” content options; secondly, it gives students a quick method to contact their teachers. Students can call on the Recommender any time in an ELA or Math course, rather than waiting for curriculum designers or their teachers to push assignments to them. This means they can get the support they need on their schedule. For teachers, it’s like having a virtual teaching assistant for each student.
Students are given the option to either email their teacher for help or use other content tools – like additional exercises and practice problems – to explore a topic they’re struggling with. Furthermore, the application is able to personalize the recommendations based on the student’s past performance, which means we can provide students carefully orchestrated building blocks to achieve their academic goals. We know students can respond to the same lesson in a myriad of ways, so we have developed activities that teach the same content but in slightly different formats.
We can also build recommendations based on what similar students found useful in the past. If we have 100 students run through a learning sequence of activities today – and we can see that a particular question is demonstrably better – we would be fools to not apply that in teaching subsequent students. Though “Recommender” is a new tool, we’ve already integrated it into hundreds of our courses. As we explore avenues for artificial intelligence and other technologies, we’re developing even more ways to personalize learning for our students.
We’re collecting data and developing tools to empower teachers – and believe that technology can be the great equalizer in American education.
One of the big advantages of online learning is that we can use a wealth of learning data to create better experiences for students. Giving teachers this data is like giving them a sixth sense of how to understand where students are struggling and where they’re succeeding. We’re working on ways to recommend that certain students group together for study sessions. Our tools have the power to make teachers more effective and digital classrooms can amplify their manpower in ways that were previously unimagined.
In the past, only the wealthiest families were able to provide their students with a personalized tutor to guide them step-by-step through content. But, a lot of what we’re doing at K12 is giving this experience to all students – no matter their backgrounds. Our technology is an equalizer, and a powerful one at that.