We launched our first course curriculum in the fall of 2018. This fall, we are set to launch four courses, which will bring our catalog of curriculum topics up to 29, including our science labs. With nearly 50 high school and higher education partners and hundreds of students each term, we’ve learned a lot about how students work through our curriculum.
After each term over the past three years, our curriculum team digs into the course analytics to see how we can make the learning design more effective for our students. Here are a few ways we’ve iterated since we launched that first course curriculum.
The systems we used when we built the curriculum for the first course topic were not sufficient as we began to scale. Managing several builds at once required new structures, such as updated review checklists and processes.
Our content review checklist allowed several people to seamlessly work on a curriculum topic while still maintaining our high-quality standards. The multi-point audits created a unified structure and flow for lesson writing and established guidelines for lesson authors. Having multiple people working on a topic at once allowed us to build our catalog quickly and efficiently.
Learning design is an iterative process. After the fall 2018 term, we also created a structure for revising our course curricula as well. As our catalog continued to grow, that review process became more granular and took into account not only curriculum content, but also how the material appeared in the learning management system.
As students began moving through our course curricula in large numbers, we were able to identify friction points that didn’t show during our testing. We found ways to add more engagement when students were slowing down, and relaunched our learning management system to focus more directly on students’ technological needs.
We also found that a set of open-ended writing assignments after modules were causing confusion for some students. Instead of several well thought-out paragraphs on a topic, students were often writing four-page papers, which was slowing down their progress and causing unnecessary stress. We also found this confusion sometimes prompted students to copy others’ work towards the end of the term. These module assignments were also keeping students focused on that module’s information instead of helping them connect concepts across modules.
With this information, we restructured our course curricula and created Mastery Assignments. These three to five assignments appear throughout each course curriculum and scaffold into a single project. The Mastery Assignments as well as the midterm and final exams provide a comprehensive understanding of the course material for the student.
Even in the three years since we launched our first course curriculum, the needs of students and schools have shifted. Conversations around the cost of college and the value of online learning are growing more pervasive. Students are demanding more flexibility and more options as they take ownership of their learning.
With our focus on badging, mapping our course objectives to 21st Century Skills, and maintaining an affordable solution for students earning college credit, the TEL curriculum team is ready to help students no matter what their learning goals are.
For more information about our Learning Design and Process Iteration over the past three years, check out this timeline.