How K-12 Can Improve Personalized Learning With a Corporate Tool

How K-12 Can Improve Personalized Learning With a Corporate Tool

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Educators know that students engaged in personalized learning achieve at higher levels. As a result, K-12 organizations across the country are investigating various software platforms to improve personalized learning for students.

But instead of looking at software for the answer to personalized learning, look for the answer in the data. Digital learning environments allow for the mass collection of data, which can be used to ensure that student learning needs are met. For example, data from game-based simulations can provide a teacher with insight into the metacognitive processing of a student. While there’s more data than ever before, the problem is getting access to the data.

The Concern of Data Privacy

Student data privacy is one struggle in accessing student data. In K-12, attempts to collect data online are often led by 3rd party vendors who want to monetize on student data, such as the concerns with inBloom in 2014. Selling of anyone’s personal data can lead to many concerns, especially when minors are involved. Although components of student data are protected under many existing federal regulations such as FERPA, COPPA, PII and HIPAA, there are many gaps in the proposed legislation. For example, data can be given to a third party without parental consent, even under PII, for research purposes. And in mergers and acquisitions, even under Obama’s newly proposed legislation, data can still be sold or shared.

So, how can educators embrace digital education while getting the data they need to assess and instruct students?

Tracking Inside an LMS With SCORM

Since 2001, the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) has been the de facto way to track learning within a Learning Management System (LMS). Simply put, if content and the LMS are both SCORM compliant, then they will “talk” to one another, and additional reporting features are available above and beyond the LMS features. However, SCORM has its limitations as it can typically only collect four types of data: completion status, time spent within the activity, pass/fail, and a score. This data is a start, but there are many other variables to consider when assessing someone’s learning.

Think of it this way. When you make your great grandmother’s chocolate cake you follow the recipe word for word. If for some reason the recipe flops, you consult the recipe card and determine what you forgot or mis-measured, because the ingredients are essentially data for producing a successful outcome. Just like the teacher in the classroom, you are determining the exact perfect ingredients. The difference is, the teacher is looking for learning success, and it is different for all students. One student may need more time working through tutorials, while another may need less. So, measuring data in a digital environment is a bit different than in the classroom, which brings us to another limitation of SCORM.

SCORM captures learning that happens in an LMS, but we all know that learning also happens outside the LMS. It happens everywhere. How do we account for the 80% of informal learning that occurs outside an LMS?

The answer is Tin Can! To continue with the cake analogy, think of SCORM as cake from a mix, with a few limited ingredients and Tin Can as a family recipe from scratch, one with social memories and numerous ingredients.

Look to Corporate’s Example: Tin Can, or the Experience API

In the corporate sector, learning initiatives are required to measure return on investment (ROI). Simply put, investors want to know if they are getting bang for their buck or “Show me the money!” But the same technology that assesses growth in corporations can be scaled in K-12 to address the learning data access barrier.

Tin Can, also known as the Experience API or the xAPI, is the next generation of SCORM, and the reporting capabilities are phenomenal. Learning experts in corporate learning insert the Tin Can API into their existing data sets to measure not only formal learning, but also informal learning. The API even allows learning experts to track offline data, such as coaching, mentoring, and mobile app data. Then when the learner syncs, the data will upload to the learner’s dashboard.

Technically, all of the data is collected in a Learning Record Store (LRS) or family cookbook, to continue the cooking analogy. Using a Tin Can API, data from a variety of sources all enter into the LRS (see Figure 1), which provides data that allows educators, parents or even tutors to take a peek into the brains of our children, seeing their strengths or weaknesses as they work in a medium that is deeply engaging and motivational, a medium that will prepare them with critical thinking skills to prepare them for a technically-rich global workforce.

Learning Record Store. Adapted from Tin Can API & LRS Overview presentation by Rustici Software, LLC. Adapted with permission.

With the data collected, reports can be defined, and dashboards created for student learning. This technology even allows educational experts to define additional gaming concepts such as badging and integrate additional assessment data if they so choose. Now, learning data can be captured using this API with or without an LMS. As a matter of fact, learning experts have the flexibility to gather reports out of a dashboard or to layer it over the LMS for additional reporting capabilities. The best news of all is that just like with SCORM, the developers of the API, Rustici Software LLC, have left it open source, which means it is available to anyone.

Finally, the Tin Can API addresses the student data privacy conundrum for accessing student data. Because the API is open source, an educational organization can collect and store the data in-house and not through a third party vendor, which takes care of some of the privacy concerns.

How can K-12 engage students in personalize learning, so they can be prepared for a global workforce? Personalized instruction allows educators to meet the individual needs of students rather than teaching to the middle or top of a classroom. However, in a traditional school day, a teacher may teach over 100 students. Planning individual lessons with what may be only 30 minutes a day for 100 students is unrealistic. However, advances in technology, such as the Tin Can API create opportunities for teachers to personalize learning for all students. K-12 should be taking advantage of an accessible, open source, well-documented API that allows for the personalization of instruction in an any learning environment.  

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