Compass Learning Odyssey is a web-based
K-12 learning solution. The K-8 Reading/Language Arts and Math programs are
aligned to state and Common Core state standards. Odyssey Middle School Science
covers state-standards aligned content in four key areas of middle school
science. Odyssey High School offers 46 courses in the four foundation content
areas, plus electives, Advanced Placement, and world languages. The Odyssey Reading/Language Arts
program for grades K-8 focuses on the five components of reading identified by
the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary,
How it works
Odyssey Reading/Language Arts, by Compass Learning, is a comprehensive, web-based English Language Arts program for K-8. It is touted as a “prescriptive” learning tool meaning it discerns and differentiates student learning patterns based on results from a diagnostic assessment. Educators may use the out-of-the-box diagnostic tools, which can be modified to meet specific requirements, or import diagnostic data from the Global Scholar Performance Series (PS) assessment or the Northwest Evaluation Association’s (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, which is popular in blended learning environments. Once students have been placed on a recommended learning path, teachers can monitor their progress via automated reporting and manually modify the path at any time.
How is it used?
The Odyssey Reading/Language Arts program by CompassLearning is highly configurable. When educators have enough time to understand all its capabilities, they can implement many instructional formats including supplementary work, targeted/differentiated exercises, credit/grade recovery, remediation and test preparation.
It is most commonly used as a “prescriptive” tool: Students take a diagnostic assessment aligned with local state standards (or Common Core/NWEA-MAP/PS where appropriate) that indicates their strengths and where improvement is needed, and Odyssey recommends an independent learning path for them on those topics and skills in which they need additional practice.
These learning paths include animated, interactive modules that are age-appropriate for content and context across different grade levels. Most modules offer formative assessment through interaction with the content -- meaning students answer questions within the context of the story or dialogue. Depending on their responses, the system moves them along a path, aiming to help address weaknesses when they answer incorrectly.
This “vanilla" (automated) version is meant to help teachers personalize instruction using the Odyssey tool. Educators can modify a student’s learning path at any point, adding or deleting Odyssey content or even inserting their own content using PowerPoint, PDF, video, audio and just about any file type. Similarly, educators may modify the assessments presented (or elements of them), and even create and insert their own into a student’s learning path.
A product demo is available on its website.
For PC users, CompassPoint recommends using Windows 7 or XP with Internet Explorer 7 and higher or Firefox 3.5 and higher. For Mac users, it recommends OS X 10.4.9, 10.5 or 10.6 with Safari 4 and higher or FIrefox 3.5.1 and higher. Adobe Flash 10.2 and Acrobat Reader 9 also are required.
What material is presented?
K-8 Reading/Language Arts and Math programs are aligned to state and Common
Core state standards. Odyssey Middle School Science covers state-standards
aligned content in four key areas of middle school science. Odyssey High School
offers 46 courses in the four foundation content areas, plus electives,
and world languages.
The scope and sequence for Odyssey Reading/Language Arts K-8 is also designed to cover state standards for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The company does not explicitly label individual units or lessons with Common Core alignment, but because the objectives of lessons are clearly identified, they can be readily used to help students recover credits or grades. In a supplementary, targeted or remedial instructional format, educators may pick and choose content from an extensive playlist of instructional activities.
Odyssey Reading/Language Arts includes the Odyssey Writer tool in which students complete writing prompts either offered out of the box or created by the teacher. In addition, the Odyssey Community is an online forum where teachers and students can pose questions or comment on any content or related topics. Through Odyssey Community, teachers may also send students messages on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis. They have the ability to control student comments. Learning activities also include interactive components such as morphing maps, drag-and-drop, and clickable "explorations."
CompassLearning executives are proud that the company frequently consults with teams of educators and creative writers, including comedians, improv groups and playwrights, to make their content more engaging and relevant with contemporary popular culture.
How it assesses students
In addition to teacher-created assessment items, the program offers a series of formative assessments embedded in its content, along with quizzes and summative assessments. Teachers begin by using the diagnostic tool to determine the student's learning path. All of the data from assessment items and software interactions is compiled into an extensive set of reports which are available to parents, teachers, and students. There are over 30 different reports available to teachers and administrators. If schools choose to issue parent passwords, parents can follow their child’s individual progress. Teachers and administrators may also build custom reports by exporting data in .csv or .xml format, although this may be a task best left to MS Excel gurus. Finally, through something called the Student Backpack, students can get specially tailored reports on their own performance.
How much does it cost?
A school can buy individual seat licenses at $150 per seat, with discounts for volume purchases.These licenses can be transferred from one student to another when a student leaves the program; students using them also can log in from home.
Alternatively, a school can buy up to 60 “concurrent user licenses” for $600 per seat. A school with concurrent licenses can have a computer lab with, say, 60 computers and run multiple classes during the day, with each student using the system. However, these students are not able to access the system from home.
Unlimited site licenses are available, one grade and one subject at a time. The cost is between $1,000 and $1,500 per course, but discounts are available for volume purchases. Schools that choose to host the software themselves must contract with CompassLearning for ongoing support.
All licenses must be renewed annually, though long-term license programs are available to meet the individual needs and budgets of districts. Ongoing professional development is additional.
How does the company train and support teachers?
CompassLearning offers professional development through its Impact Teacher Academy. It is offered on site, blended through face-to-face and web, or completely online through videos and webinars. The cost of the Impact Teacher Academy begins at $800 per site for the online offering. Other models are on a hourly basis and run from $2,500 up to more than $25,000 for districtwide, on-site implementation.
Buts, Ands, Ors
While Odyssey offers “prescriptive” learning paths, teachers may be puzzled about why the software makes the recommendations it does. One charter school educator reports, “The out-of-the-box reports don’t really align with the prescriptive claims of the software. It’s hard for teachers to determine why a certain path has been prescripted.” He is quick to point, however, out that Odyssey generates all of the data needed to build a detailed understanding of the student's skills; he consequently builds his own “prescriptive” reports from the back end using MS Excel macros, although that can be a time-consuming and daunting path for many.
Professional development tends to be more admin centered than content centered, making it difficult to implement instructional formats outside of those commonly used.
The technology manager at one San Francisco K-8 school reports that the Odyssey Reading/Language Arts product is among the most “well designed” for engaging the school's students and teachers.
CompassLearning presents a number of reading/language arts case studies on its website. All other available studies and reports focus on their Math offerings.