Classroom Technology Opinion

10 Ways to Use Quality Digital Curriculum

By Tom Vander Ark — November 30, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Tom Vander Ark and Emily Liebtag

The shift to digital learning is a historic opportunity to rethink school. Quality curriculum, inexpensive devices, and blended and online learning models have extended the benefits of personalization to many American students. Evidence of deeper learning outcomes as a result of digital learning also continue to fuel school and district support.

Houston Independent School District (HISD), serving over 200,000 students with a wide range of needs, has been a leader in the shift to digital. While phasing in a technology infrastructure, HISD held community conversations about preparing all students for college, work and life.

In a recent presentation we did together, Natalie Blasingame, HISD Assistant Superintendent for Academic Interventions, described many ways they have deployed digital curriculum from Apex Learning. And the folks at Apex agree that curriculum should match the district learning goals and ought to include student engagement strategies, assessment and support.

Building on the HISD list, following are 10 ways a district can deploy a high-quality digital curriculum.

1. Online courses. Learning online is the new normal for students of all ages. There are endless options to advance or get your degree, learn a new skill and connect with others. High-quality content and user experiences are what differentiates some courses from the rest. Online courses in middle and high school are particularly helpful as we move away from the hyper-structured school day and move towards more blended environments and project-based learning. Students who do not attend a traditional school that need to earn credits on their own time also benefit from access to high-quality digital courses.

2. Core content in blended courses. Online learning should enhance and bolster student learning. Digital curriculum can provide more personalized learning than a student is getting otherwise. Quality control is essential for schools and educators in blended learning environments. Educators want to know that students are covering core content, meeting standards and that student online learning is personalized and meaningful.

3. Supplement in blended courses. Adaptive tutorials and assigned units can supplement teacher developed core content in a blended course. Tutorials can also be useful supports for a project-based approach.

4. Credit recovery. Students often decide dropping out is a better option after they realize how difficult it can be to make up failed courses. Digital courses that provide students credit recovery can be a huge relief and solution. Students can take courses again on their own time and do not have to wait until the next time a course is offered.

5. Expand AP options. Most high schools can only afford to offer a couple Advanced Placement courses. With access to digital courses online, students anywhere can have the opportunity to have AP learning--including the next generation courses that encourage deeper learning. This is increasingly important as the bar for college entrance and necessary entry-level job requirements only continue to rise.

6. Expand elective options. Students, especially those in middle and high school, want voice and choice in their learning. Digital curriculum can provide students options, even if courses or content is not offered at their school.

7. Expand CTE options. College might be the goal for students, but many opt to head straight into the workforce. With the decrease in funding for vocational ed and career and technical education courses, these students often aren’t getting the type of teaching & learning experiences they want or need. Online CTE options can be a great way to ensure that these students are also really ready.

8. Student Acceleration. Over-aged middle school students needing to bridge the gap into high school can benefit from digital learning during the summer or school year. Students who are hoping to advance or graduate early also can use digital courses to achieve their goals.

9. Expand language learning. Districts looking to support language learning often face the challenge of finding the right teachers. Digital learning not only has the potential to provide language courses for students, but also language support and translation for students that are learning English.

10. Provide additional support, mentoring and tutorials. Student interest and engagement often increases when they feel they have adequate support and guidance, especially when they are working on materials or skills that they are struggling with. For more, see:

  • Infographic | Really Ready for College, Work and Life
  • What it Means to be Really Ready: More than Just Getting a Degree
  • Related Tags:

    The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

    Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


    This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
    Teaching Webinar
    What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
    The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
    Content provided by Instructure
    This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
    Curriculum Webinar
    How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
    As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
    Content provided by Kiddom
    This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
    Equity & Diversity Webinar
    Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
    While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
    Content provided by Corwin

    EdWeek Top School Jobs

    Teacher Jobs
    Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
    View Jobs
    Principal Jobs
    Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
    View Jobs
    Administrator Jobs
    Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
    View Jobs
    Support Staff Jobs
    Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
    View Jobs

    Read Next

    Classroom Technology The Future of Blended Learning: What Educators Need to Know
    More than two-thirds of educators expect their use of blended learning to increase during the 2021-22 school year.
    8 min read
    onsr edtech blended
    Classroom Technology Why School Districts Are Unprepared for COVID-19 Disruptions, Again
    Bad state policy, misplaced optimism, and a focus on full-time virtual schools left districts scrambling to educate quarantined students.
    11 min read
    onsr edtech hybrid
    Classroom Technology Opinion Some Teachers Are New to Laptop Integration. Here’s How to Manage It
    Let students help set expectations and make sure both you and they know how to use the tools are just a couple suggestions educators offer.
    15 min read
    Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
    Classroom Technology Opinion 20 Suggestions About Teaching in a Class Where All Students Have Laptops
    One tip from experienced teachers: Working in a one-to-one classroom is more about a shift in teaching and learning than the use of devices.
    11 min read
    Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."