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Customization in Edmentum Courseware: Making Sure That Your Online Courses Are at the “Just Right” Level

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 -- Shannan LaMalfa

One of the most exciting things for me about working in the edtech industry is having the chance to hear and learn from educators like you. I loved my roles as a teacher, principal, and district administrator before coming to Edmentum, but nothing has brought me more enjoyment than working with educators across the U.S. in my position here. This blog post will focus on some of the things I hear from educators about rigor in online courseware and how to address creating a curriculum that fits your learners’ needs.

A few days ago, I was meeting with a group of our staff who shared a story with me about a newly hired teacher in a school district that uses Edmentum courses. This teacher had previous experience using our online courses from her last job in a neighboring district. She entered a classroom where other teachers were meeting and noticed the focus of their discussion was on using Edmentum’s Plato Courseware with students, in particular, struggling students. The teachers were looking at course curriculum displayed on a large screen and talking about standards and the most effective procedures to help their students succeed. The new teacher engaged in this dialogue and then declared, “These courses are way too hard. Your students are never going to have success with them. I used this [Edmentum Courseware] in my old district.”

A few days before I heard this “too hard” story, one of our Edmentum team members forwarded me an email that a school district administrator had written to him, which listed reasons why the administrator believed our courses were too easy. As I read the administrator’s claims, I was thinking, “If only this school district would participate in some of our staff development to fully understand Edmentum Courseware’s curriculum, instruction, and assessment.”

“Easier” and “harder” are relative terms for all learners. Learners as individuals are exactly that—individuals in need of differentiation and personalization. Some students do require more difficult curriculum, while others need accommodations to set them up for success. Edmentum added flex assignments to our courseware to support educators in planning to meet these needs. Then, differentiation and personalization are achieved through high-quality teachers implementing research-based best practices in the classroom.

Even with the knowledge of research-based best practices that educators have, this “too hard, too easy” scenario comes up on an almost-daily basis. Ask any Edmentum team member if he or she has run into the “too hard, too easy” conundrum, and the response will likely be “yes” and that the “too hard” claim is heard more often. There is a simple solution to this perceived problem. After all, in one part of the nation, I hear too hard; in another, I hear too easy; and sometimes, I hear both from educators in the same state. So, let me point out a couple of Edmentum Courseware features designed to offer educators the flexibility needed to make sure that their students’ online courses are at the right level.

Standards Alignment

Standards alignment is always our priority when building Edmentum courses. We never arbitrarily decide what content to include in our curriculum; instead, it is always built to your state standards. A team—including a subject matter expert, instructional designer, writer, and media specialist—works together to build each course’s curriculum and content. Then, the course is reviewed for quality by a standards expert. In fact, there are members of the Edmentum team who work full time to examine correlation coverage of our course curriculum built to your state’s standards.

Course Customization

Now let’s say you are (or you know someone else who is) struggling with this “too easy, too hard” dilemma. Course customization can solve this problem. Any Edmentum course may be customized to be either “easier” or “harder.” For educators who want to modify curriculum, Edmentum’s entire content library is available to create custom courses. Beyond reports I hear of “too easy,” often educators who report “too hard” have not been provided with the opportunity to engage in staff development to learn and understand the most current curriculum standards or have not unpacked those standards. Intimately knowing your state standards is key to understanding Edmentum’s curriculum in your state.

Professional Development

In the “too hard” camp, I also frequently hear “this is too hard for MY students.” What this really communicates to me is that not all students are at the same level as their peers in the same grade, as you know. This is where you, as the teacher-expert, come in and create the personalized learning opportunity that each student needs. If this is your experience and you need help, we have a world-class Services Team that we can connect you with.

If you are not familiar with all the customization features Edmentum Courseware offers, be sure to check out this blog for a deeper dive. And, you are always welcome to reach out to our team for help or simply to offer feedback. Again, my greatest honor in my role here at Edmentum is working with and hearing from educators like you. I am truly thankful for your partnership and believe wholeheartedly in our commitment to being educators' most trusted partner in creating successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs. 

Be sure to check out the many features Edmentum Courseware offers to address all of your students’ needs, including Teacher Graded Activities, Voice Recorder, and Flex Assignments. We also encourage you to review our back-to-school checklist as a refresher with helpful tips and tricks.

Have a specific question? Get in touch with our support team! They’re available via phone and email!