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Core Skills MasteryCore Skills Mastery
Core Skills Mastery
by Apprion
GRADES / High School (Grades 9-12), Higher Education
PRICING PLANS / Freemium
PLATFORMS / Web Browser

Adaptive course prepares students for life, emphasizing problem solving persistence and more

Overview

Core Skills Mastery (CSM) is an adaptive course designed by CSMLearn, to do something at once simple and complex: prepare individuals for educational and workforce success by addressing not only their cognitive abilities but also their persistence, motivation, and decision-making skills. CSM addresses a set of core math and literacy skills but focuses even more so on building character through problem solving skills: learning by reading, extracting information from texts, planning how to approach a problem before jumping into a solution, using information to solve an entirely new problem, and so forth.

CSM is typically completed in 10-60 hours, depending on the trainee’s level of prior knowledge. It includes core instruction and support instruction, as well as dozens of hours of “challenge problems” that can be tackled after completion of the course. Questions are anchored in real workplace situations; responses are often open-ended and provide feedback based not just on right or wrong answers, but on the “thinking errors” that may have led to incorrect answers. 

CSM is aimed at high school students, and adult learners in college or the workforce (including a wide range of employees from frontline to supervisory positions). The curriculum begins at about a 6th grade level for literacy and a 3rd grade level for math. It is designed to be used in conjunction with a teacher, not on its own. CSM will train teachers (provided by the company or school) for free, or will provide online instructors for a fee.

Behind the scenes, CSM captures data about student progress including student effort. It flags students that seem to be “stuck” so teachers can help.

Product Brief

Summary

Goals: CSM’s mission is to foster success for adult learners in school and in the workforce by providing instruction on core academic and problem solving skills as well as character traits such as confidence and carefulness.

Approach: The four essential aspects of CSM curriculum are core literacy and math skills, active learning, character traits (such as confidence and carefulness), and problem solving. The course is typically completed in 10-60 hours, depending on the trainee’s level of prior knowledge. When an individual completes the course, they are eligible for the CSM certificate, which comes with lifelong verification, meaning that any school or employer can verify that an individual has received a CSM certificate at any time. The certificate is optional and costs $45.

Implementation: The course is web-based and can be accessed through desktops, laptops, or tablets. When a company or institution wants to use CSM, they need to make a few decisions including: which individuals to train, whether to use internal or external instructors, when the training will happen, and what incentives will be used. CSM offers free implementation support to help make these decisions.

Pricing: The course and all professional development, implementation and support is free for all users. Optional certificates are available upon course completion for $45, which can be paid by an individual, a company, or a school. CSM will train instructors (provided by a company or school) for free, or will provide online instructors for a fee of $75 for basic facilitation and $145 intensive facilitation.

Who is Using It: As of summer 2014, CSM has been used by 4,000 learners. This includes high school students, college students, and individuals in the workforce.

Goals

CSM’s mission is to foster success for adult learners in school and in the workforce by providing instruction on core academic and problem solving skills as well as character traits such as confidence and carefulness. Their goal goes beyond the idea of workforce “readiness,” and into the realm of career success. Revenue from the certificates and online instructors allows CSM to minimize the cost barrier, making the course free for individuals, schools and companies.CSM’s curriculum is rooted in academic skills (literacy and math), and personal traits including self-efficacy, confidence, adaptability and the ability to make decisions that contribute to high-performance in the workplace. CSM’s leadership believes that these skills and traits should be evident in all employees ranging from front-line workers to individuals in managerial positions.

Approach

The Course

Core Skills Mastery (CSM) is an adaptive course designed to prepare individuals for educational and workforce success. The course is web-based and can be accessed through a desktop, laptop or tablet. It is flexible and can be used by individuals or by organizations using the course to train cohorts.

The four essential aspects of CSM curriculum are core literacy and math skills, active learning, character traits (such as confidence and carefulness), and problem solving. It includes 34 core skills and 65 supporting skills. All users learn core skills in the CSM curriculum, and some users work through the support skills (which begin loosely at around 3rd grade math and 6th grade literacy). According to CEO David Goldberg, instructional delivery is focused on reading, because that is the most common form of learning in the workplace and in college. Regardless of a learner’s reading level, the course depends on their ability to extract information.

The course is is typically completed in 10-60 hours, depending on the trainee’s level of prior knowledge. It is flexible and can be completed over the course of a few weeks, or can be paced out by a company or school over the course of a year. When an individual completes the course, they are eligible for the CSM certificate, which comes with lifelong verification, meaning that any school or employer can verify that an individual has received a CSM certificate at any time.

CSM does not use the pre-post test model. Instead, when a user begins the course, they are asked a few demographic questions such as: what is your highest level of math education, what is your highest level of education, and would you identify yourself as an A, B, C, D, or F student? The system takes a best guess at where the learner should begin. The course then adapts its content based on the performance of the user.

The system scaffolds instruction, asking learners to try solving problems on their own first. If a learner attempts to solve a problem and answers it incorrectly, they are taken to a window that analyzes their error and prompts them to engage in metacognitive thinking. They may decide that it was a mistake and they know how to solve the problem, or they can choose from a variety of instructional models including concepts, solving the problem, a step-by-step work through, and tips. A lesson typically contains text and images or diagrams. All lessons offer 3-5 different models to appeal to different learning styles. If a learner has been making the same mistake repeatedly, the system alerts them that they will take a break from that skill and revisit it later.

CSM uses a karate belt metaphor, allowing trainees to earn yellow, red and black belts for mastery of particular skills as they move throughout the curriculum. To boost intrinsic motivation, the system also shares with trainees occasional data about just how few students or adults nationwide have been able to answer that question correctly, designed to make students feel either comforted or confident by the comparison.

For example, when a learner receives a belt for advanced percents, the following window appears: 

CSM claims to help trainees achieve a higher level of mastery, because trainees cannot guess their way through the course. To complete the entire course, a learner must obtain a black belt in every core skill.

Instructor Support

CSM encourages the use of a teacher or course instructor/facilitator in some capacity. They will train an onsite instructor (provided by a school or company) for free, or can provide CSM online instructors for a fee. The course provides instruction on core academic (math and literacy) and problem solving skills, allowing the course instructors to focus on providing personalized feedback and boosting the trainee’s ability to learn independently.

CSM provides a “Teacher Toolkit,” which the CEO refers to as “embedded PD.” The toolkit includes data on student progress and usage, as well as teaching strategies for intervention. Data is provided in the form a dashboard that shows real-time updates on the News Feed and a class view showing suggested intervention, progress, effort, time on CSM, and more.

The Certificate

A learner completes the CSM course when they have obtained black belts in every core skill. When an individual completes the course, a CSM certificate is available for $45. The certificate is optional, and can be paid for by the trainee or their company. The certificate comes with lifelong verification, meaning that any school or employer can verify that an individual has received a CSM certificate at any time.

Individuals may be interested in purchasing a CSM certificate because of incentives that are internal to their program, such as career advancement, eligibility for a promotion, or in some instances as a prerequisite for tuition reimbursement.

CSM is encouraging companies to use the certificate as a prerequisite for internships and hopes to gain national recognition as a certificate of merit in the near future.

Implementation

When a company or institution wants to use CSM, they need to make a few decisions including which individuals to train, whether to use internal or external instructors, when the training will happen, and what incentives will be used. CSM offers free implementation support to help make these decisions.

The course is flexible and can be used by individuals or by cohorts. It can be completed over the course of a few weeks, or can be paced out by a company or school over the course of a year.

CSM can customize the course by creating advanced training modules that are specific to a particular business or industry. This may have an additional fee, depending on the relationship that is set up with a client. They can also integrate the course with a specific LMS. Implementation may vary depending on the level of customization.

Training and Support

CSM is computer-based but typically involves an online or in-person instructor. The role of the instructor is to focus on teaching trainees how to become effective learners (not to teach academic skills). CSM provides a few models of free Professional Development and support for instructors:

  • 1.5-2 hour webinar focuses on pedagogy and creating a strong blended classroom community
  • One-to-one online check-ins are available during the first few weeks teaching with CSM through the Teacher Toolkit
  • The Teacher-Toolkit provides data reporting, teaching strategies and tips that can be accessed at any time

Business Model and Pricing

The CSM course and all professional development is free for all users. When an individual completes the course, a CSM certificate is available for $45. The certificate is optional, and can be paid for by the trainee or their company. The certificate comes with lifelong verification, meaning that any school or employer can verify that an individual has received a CSM certificate at any time.

CSM will train instructors (provided by the company or school) for free, or will provide online instructors for a fee of $75 for basic facilitation and $145 intensive facilitation. According to CEO David Goldberg, CSM will always be free.

Basic facilitation ($75) includes a CSM-provided online instructor who monitors trainee progress, responds to questions, and delivers positive feedback to increase motivation.

Intensive facilitation ($145) includes all of the services provided in the basic facilitation with added personalization, including more frequent contact online or on the phone.

Data Collection

CSM provides a “Teacher Toolkit,” which includes data on student progress and usage, as well as teaching strategies for intervention. Data is provided in the form of a dashboard that shows real-time updates on the News Feed and a class view showing suggested intervention, progress, effort, time on CSM, and more. A teacher can click inside an individual student’s page to view a list of strengths and concerns for that student. On each student page, a teacher can click “Strategies” (located in the concerns section) to see a list of potential causes and intervention strategies for that specific concern. All elements of data are recalculated every ten minutes. 

Some of the data provided are:

  • Reading habits and reading effectiveness
  • Distraction levels (e.g. time spent outside the CSM window)
  • Student learning decisions and metacognition
  • Rates of learning
  • Detailed information on student progress through individual skills, down to thinking errors on individual problems

Who is Using It

As of Summer 2014, CSM has been used by 4,000 learners. This includes high school students, college students, and individuals in the workforce. CSMLearn has also participated in pilots with the New England Literacy Resource Center (in Rhode Island, Maine, and Vermont) and The Corps Network (Ex: Americorps, Conservation Corps, etc.).

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PRODUCT VIDEOS

CSM Benefits with Jane
CSM Benefits with Jane

PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES

Audience

Adult Learning Adult Learning
Lifelong Learning Lifelong Learning
Post-Secondary Post-Secondary

Characteristics

Adaptive Learning Adaptive Learning

Subject Matter

21st Century Skills 21st Century Skills
Career Literacy Career Literacy
Math Math
Reading Reading