The shift to digital curriculum has begun, and if it hasn’t yet reached your school or district, it’s just a matter of time.
According to the Consortium for School Networking’s 2015 IT Leadership Survey, 84 percent of school technology officials expect that at least half of their instructional materials will be digitally based within three short years.
And with this move to digital, educators who continue to use yesterday’s ways of managing their curriculum will soon find themselves behind the curve.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Educators at Houston ISD (Texas), Forsyth County (Georgia), Harford County (Maryland) and Bartholomew CSC (Indiana) have found ways to successfully manage this digital transition, each using a distinct model aligning with their school system’s visions, goals and philosophies.
In this article we’ll explore the importance of effective curriculum management, some common curriculum challenges educators just like you are facing, as well as uncover four different ways you can make curriculum management in the digital classroom successful.
Why Is Curriculum Management Important?
By implementing a consistent framework for teaching across the school district, leaders can assess student and teacher performance against common standards, making it easier to spot issues that may need immediate attention, as well as discover best practices that may otherwise be hidden.
However, none of this is possible unless the district has put practices in place to effectively manage their curriculum. To put this in perspective, because of its very nature, digital content is constantly changing, and districts already have a hard time making sense of the mountains of student data that seem to multiply daily.
When these forces come together, threats such as content gaps, inefficiencies in developing and adapting curriculum – or worse, missed opportunities for student intervention, become magnified.
Outcomes of Effective Curriculum Management
Talk to any district leader about some of the biggest challenges they face, and you’re likely to find that many educators grapple with the same types of issues: difficulty in tracking and comparing student progress; too many systems in place; inefficient processes for curriculum changes; and how to handle previous investment in other resources.
The solution for many educators? A system to effectively manage their digital curriculum.
To understand how this works in practice, let’s look at some examples of how different school systems have built curriculum management systems that allow them to more effectively track student progress; drive efficiency by providing easy access to courses and student progress data; and help them make the most of the investments they’ve already made to support their curriculum.
Four Strategies for Successful Curriculum Management
Because your district’s vision, goals and philosophies are unique, chances are your approach to curriculum management also differs from other districts around you.
That’s why it’s important to weigh a variety of options when it comes to deciding the best way to manage your digital curriculum.
Following are four successful curriculum management strategies used by school districts across the country – all made possible with the help of their learning management system (LMS).
Four Successful Strategies for Curriculum Management: These four strategies show how different districts approached curriculum management with the help of their LMS to create a solution tailored for their district’s vision, goals, philosophy and infrastructure.
1. Mass Migration: A systematic approach to curriculum management, mass migration involves developing courses and course plans centrally to ensure they align with defined curriculum and standards. This strategy also includes giving teachers access to aligned supplemental materials that they can use to personalize their teaching.
Houston ISD in Houston, Texas, used this strategy to develop and push out more than 200 course templates to their teachers through their LMS, and consolidated all of their learning materials so teachers wouldn’t have to go to multiple sources to find them. Each course houses district-level curriculum documents, a unit structure populated with resources, and a basic course plan aligned to standards. In addition, they loaded publisher content into the LMS library for all teachers to access.
Central to any successful curriculum management strategy, all content is aligned to standards and learning objectives. Today, teachers at Houston ISD have access to more than one million learning resources they can use to guide, support and enhance their teaching.
"We now have aggregated over 1 million learning objects from various publishers in our district's library. Our LMS is now the central repository for content and resources used by teachers and students, and allows parents to share information and collaborate in the education process."
Beatriz Arnillas, Director of Education Technology
Houston Independent School District, TX
2. Jump Started and Crowdsourced: District leaders who want to give their teachers more freedom in how they teach the curriculum may want to consider the jump-start strategy. With this approach, teachers are given access to resources that have been linked to the curriculum and standards, and they use these resources to create their courses.
In order to make this strategy work, it’s important to provide a variety of materials, as well as a high level of training and support.
Forsyth County Schools in Cumming, Georgia harvested and created secondary math and English language arts resources, and made them accessible to teachers through their LMS content library. Teachers were also given the ability to create spaces where they can share ideas and collaborate.
In order to help teachers make the best use of their library and resources, Forsyth leaders developed a district-wide professional development plan to provide guidance, and each school has an instructional technology specialist for support.
“Our LMS is an important instructional delivery and collaboration tool across all levels of our district, and our partnership assures us that we have implemented the most robust learning management system available for educators and students alike.”
Mike Evans, Director of Information and Instructional Support Systems,
Forsyth County Schools, GA
3. Focused Best Practice: This strategy involves developing course templates based on best practice. Each template includes a standards-aligned course plan and all necessary teaching resources.
Harford County Public Schools in Bel Air, Maryland formed curriculum-writing teams for each subject in order to build their best practice courses. Each team built a single best practice course in their LMS, which is now used by all subject teachers.
Each template includes a standards-aligned planner organized into lessons and units, as well as a variety of linked digital resources and student activities.
“At the end of the day, we need our teachers using tools that provide them with the best opportunity to APPLY best practice in their classrooms – our LMS helps us do just that.”
Martha Barwick, Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Harford County Public Schools, MD
4. Universal Design for Learning (UDL): This educational framework is based on creating flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences. Teachers are able to create these environments using resources that are designed to help students acquire information and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation in Columbus, Indiana has based all of its curriculum on this framework, including building all district-level courses with UDL in mind. All resources are developed centrally and made available to teachers via the LMS content library.
“I love the versatility of our LMS. It can suit the needs of our very diverse corporation. We have more ways to individualize learning, we can offer eLearning days, and it is a valuable tool to implement UDL practice.”
Nick Williams, Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, IN
How a Next Generation LMS Can Help
As you can see from the examples given, these districts were able to build a robust curriculum management system with the support of their LMS. In each case, they used the itslearning next generation LMS to fully integrate curriculum management with their existing resources and other IT systems.
With curriculum guides, instructional frameworks, instructional resources all located in the same platform – all with one login – these districts made it easy for teachers and curriculum developers to quickly access and edit courses, automatically pushing out any content changes to all affected courses.
They were also able to align all units, lessons and assessments to their district, state or national standards, as well as their own learning goals and objectives to enable better student progress tracking.
Finally, with itslearning, these educators were able to promote best practices with course templates and resource sharing, as well as extend their investment in existing curriculum resources by streamlining resource management and providing more meaningful access to instructional material across the district.
For more tips to help you and your team get started with digital curriculum management using itslearning, download the Curriculum Management Playbook or visit www.itslearning.net/curriculum-management.
“itslearning is quickly becoming our ‘learning hub.’ We are able to seamlessly combine our curriculum mapping processes with the student learning environment. This new functionality will make it easier for teachers to plan, access district resources and enable a student-centered learning environment for all stakeholders.”
Michele Eaton, Virtual Learning Specialist
Wayne Township, IN
5 Tips for Implementing a Digital Curriculum Management Solution
1. Align units, lessons and assessments
Create a system that lets you connect your content to district, state or national standards, as well as established learning outcomes and your own learning objectives.
2. Make it a one-stop solution
Save time with a solution that gives teachers, curriculum managers and parents quick, easy access to courses, resources and student progress – all from one user interface, with one login
3. Adopt a dynamic solution
Drive efficiency by ensuring that all changes are automatically reflected throughout your district, in every school and for every teacher
4. Build in best practices
Encourage best practices by building them into your course design and pedagogy, as well as providing online spaces for resource sharing and teacher collaboration
5. Maximize your curriculum investment
Make your investment in existing resources go further by making sure all of your resources are easily accessible to teachers, including free content