As the ninth largest district in the nation, Orange County (FL) Public Schools is using its size for good. Maurice Draggon, director of curriculum, instruction, and digital learning, shares his district’s story and their pioneering efforts to simplify and standardize the time-consuming process of accessing instructional resources by taking advantage of the IMS Global OneRoster LTI and Thin Common Cartridges. While Draggon is the first to point out that they’re still striving toward their end goal of personalized learning that opens up vast opportunities for every one of Orange County’s 190,000 students, they’re moving ever closer and hoping to help pave the way for other districts around the country as well. Below, Draggon shares his district’s story.


Orange County students access digital resources using LaunchPad. In 2012 we began a digital curriculum pilot with about 6,000 students in three elementary, three middle, and one high school. We decided then that curriculum, and not technology, would drive our digital curriculum journey. Another critical decision that helped to shape our digital ecosystem was to substitute, where possible, the digital form of the textbook for the paper-based one. This meant that students and teachers had to use their new 1:1 devices to access core curriculum materials.

As we toured schools those first few weeks, we witnessed how the lengthy log-in process to access instructional materials from each publisher’s Web site repeatedly took away from instructional time. We realized that access to digital resources through a single sign-on (SSO) method and rostering was not a technology imperative but an instructional one—because time wasted logging in was time not learning.

The different SSO and rostering requirements of each publisher created further unnecessary delays to access. I will never forget the frustration we felt when, after working to solve an issue with the enrollment file for one publisher, we couldn’t use the same solution to solve a similar issue with another publisher because they used different file formats. As the number of digital resources grew, we knew that the number of different file formats would eventually overwhelm us and slow the resolution of issues. We had to standardize the roster file being sent to publishers.

So we looked for a system that would provide easy access and also take advantage of the IMS Global OneRoster LTI for SSO and OneRoster CSVs for rostering. With a learning object repository (LOR) already in place to provide additional access to digital resources outside of publishers’ Web sites, we also strove to take advantage of IMS Global Thin Common Cartridges to provide direct access to instructional resources within our district’s LOR.

We now have a district dashboard (ClassLink’s LaunchPad) for teachers and students to access resources, as well as an OneRoster server to provide access to rostering information for all the major publishers. We also use our LOR (SAFARI Montage) to provide additional access to Thin Common Cartridge resources. We’re actively working with all of our partners to:

■ Transition access to their resources to SSO and send them rostering information through the OneRoster CSV or API, and
■ Provide access to their digital resources through a Thin Common Cartridge file in our LOR.


Moving publishers from their proprietary file formats to the open OneRoster format is one of the major challenges in building a digital ecosystem. As we’ve worked with our procurement department to add OneRoster support requirements to new contracts, we’ve also worked with existing publishers (as well as those who contact the district to gauge interest in their product) to encourage their support for OneRoster.

Internally, we’ve worked to reduce the number of teams making roster files and the number of places from which that information is pulled. This in turn simplifies the troubleshooting process and shortens the time needed to solve access issues. We’re in constant contact with our IT partners and often include them in meetings with publishers so that we’re providing a united front to anyone who wishes to do business with the district. Importantly, we’ve also worked to communicate the importance of rostering, SSO, and Thin Common Cartridge to our curriculum leaders.


Recognizing that publishers have done a great job of identifying some of the vetted instructional resources that can meet standards, we’ve worked with them to provide Thin Common Cartridge files for our LOR. Thin Common Cartridges are files that give us access within our LOR to search the publisher’s Web site for resources—just like we would search resources that we own. When we find a resource that’s helpful, such as an ebook or video tied to a standard, we can add that resource to our collection of Web links, SAFARI resources, and self-created files. When a teacher clicks on the resource, the Thin Common Cartridge connection between our LOR and the publisher’s Web site allows seamless viewing without the need to log in.


We’ve now expanded the original pilot to 30 schools and we’re rolling out over 70,000 devices for the 2016–2017 school year. The Digital Learning team, which began as part of the Research, Accountability, and Grants Department, has now joined the Curriculum and Instruction Department to create a new department: Curriculum, Instruction, and Digital Learning. This shift reflects the fact that integrating digital tools into the curriculum is simply the new way we do business and is not separate from our core curriculum work.

While publishers have started to provide some, but not dramatic, discounts on their digital (versus printed) resources, these savings shouldn’t be a driving factor for any conversion. Long-term, “going digital” has to reflect what a district eventually wants learning to look like in their classrooms.

It’s critically important for curriculum and technology personnel to communicate so everyone understands the real classroom and learning implications of technology issues. If an IT team, for example, makes a “technology decision” that results in every student losing the equivalent of one full instructional week a year just trying to log in without SSO, that obviously creates significant issues for instruction and learning. While every curriculum leader doesn’t need to understand all the deep technical issues around SSO, rostering, and Thin Common Cartridges, they need to be part of discussions to decide the speed, access, and quality of resources they want students to have.


From the beginning of our digital curriculum program, we made sure we didn’t put procedures in place in the seven schools that we couldn’t scale up to 30 or 180. Building a digital ecosystem requires equally thoughtful attention to scale.

The best illustration of a successful transition to digital curriculum I can think of involves our LaunchPad implementation. The first year, we averaged 11,000 log-ins a day to access digital resources (not a big number in our district). But as we focused on the instructional impact of using Launchpad to quickly access digital resources, we saw a jump to 11,000 log-ins within the first hour of our second year of implementation. Our daily average on the weekend is now around 11,000 log-ins with no school in session!


LaunchPad by ClassLink
SAFARI Montage