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Broward County Schools: Enabling Learning For All

EdTech Revolution Leaders article header
 
September 2018

Broward County Schools: Enabling Learning For All—Any Time, Any Place

Listen to most educators today and you’ll hear stories about their administrative workload, the redundancy of effort and most importantly the lack of time they have to accomplish their work goals. There’s so much to be done and not enough time to get it all done!

However, visit Broward County Public Schools in Florida and you’ll find educators having a very different experience. The Office of Academics, Innovative Learning and Information & Technology Departments have been working together to implement a solution that provides leaders, teachers, and students with a single sign-on experience containing all the role-relevant applications in one place using IMS Global Learning Consortium open standards. IMS Global has a proven set of standards that enable rapid integration of a wide variety of digital content and learning applications into a seamless, single sign-on environment.

The district named their solution the “Launchpad.” According to Daryl Diamond, Director of Innovative Learning, “It’s the smartest thing we ever did!”Broward County Public Schools logo

She goes on to explain that in the past Broward educators used software systems that didn’t “talk” to each other, which required them to log into multiple systems while remembering many different passwords. Diamond says, “We’ve worked with our vendor partners to develop and enhance the usefulness of the Launchpad by letting them know exactly what we need.”

Reports indicate that Broward’s educators are delighted now that they don’t have to remember all those passwords today. Another benefit is all the role-based instructional materials and digital applications are available in one place. The ease of use translates into teachers being excited to use technology instead of not wanting to bother using it. Senior Project Manager, Jeanine Gendron says, “Having devices is integral to making this new vision happen as well. Our computer refresh has been very important to ensure that teachers and students can use these technologies.”

As Contributing Members in IMS Global Learning Consortium, Broward County Schools found the resources they needed to evolve their ecosystem in IMS Global’s K-12 Digital Learning Revolution Program. The K-12 Digital Learning Revolution Program is the work of IMS Global Learning Consortium member school districts and state departments of education that have substantive experience and knowledge about what it takes to implement and scale integrated learning technologies.

Broward County Schools has made an ongoing commitment to purchasing IMS Certified Products, knowing the many benefits to them including getting assistance from IMS should they need help in determining their exact needs or troubleshooting issues with certified products. By beginning to establish a plug-and-play ecosystem with a pledge to purchase IMS Certified products listed in the IMS Certified Product Directory, the district was confident of the widest choice of interoperable products available anywhere.

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K-12 Digital Learning Revolution Program: Making the Commitment

To support this effort, the district began to set criteria for what vendors are required to do in order to be accepted for purchasing. This changed the way materials are adopted to ensure that all resources fit within Broward’s specific criteria. “The first evaluation that a vendor has to go through is meeting the technology requirements for implementing IMS standards and our district makes no exceptions to this requirement. Then a product is evaluated for Special Programs such as English Language Learners and Special Education requirements. By holding firm to this, we have such a better process in place for the acquisition of instructional materials,“ says Daryl Diamond.

Chief Information Officer, Tony Hunter, and his team work together with the Innovative Learning department and Office of Academics to ensure they are able to build the foundation for digital learning in the district via IMS Global’s OneRoster standard. OneRoster version 1.1 solves a school’s need to securely and reliably exchange roster information, course materials, and grades between systems and supports the commonly used comma separated value mode for exchange and the latest real-time web services mode known as REST. Tony Hunter says, “We are focused on achieving digital on day one of learning regardless of whether the learning begins at the start of the school year or when a learner transfers into the school district at any point in the school year.”

Diamond also shares that the district has enabled increased instructional impact by implementing Instructure’s Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). Courses are automatically created and rostered and engaging rigorous content is pre-populated for educators to use as well. The Innovative Learning team, in partnership with other departments in the Office of Academics, is working with vendor partners to ask for content that is delivered in modules so that the district can create its own scope and sequence. The district prefers to spend less time visiting and training staff on other platforms and wants all instructional resources ingested into the LMS via IMS Global’s Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®), Common Cartridge® and Thin Common Cartridge standards. Diamond adds, “We’re pushing the envelope.”

The future looks bright for Broward as they turn their focus to gaining advanced insights into student learning. “The next goal is to be able to dig deep into the data that we are collecting with all of our applications down to the student level but also up to the school and district level. We need more insight into what our products are doing,” says Daryl Diamond. While the district promotes personalized learning now, they understand that technology will accelerate the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses. Their goal is to use analytics and algorithms to identify student performance and deliver content for enrichment and remediation via learning pathways.

Another area for future expansion is digital credentialing, or badging. Currently, the Professional Development Support Services department has determined a process by which educators may either obtain digital credentials or become qualified to issue digital credentials for certain programs. The district would like to extend the ability to earn digital credentials to students using a platform such as their LMS for delivery. Diamond notes that the Florida University System uses the same LMS as the district and that may present some opportunities to allow students to take their digital credentials with them in the future.

IMS is committed to furthering the development and adoption of innovative solutions that support competency-based education and the transferability of learner micro-credentials within and across institutions, non-traditional learning opportunities, and employment centers. The IMS digital credentials portfolio currently includes the Open Badges, Comprehensive Learner Record, and the Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange® (CASE®) standards with future work to include learning pathways, advanced means of verification, and standards-based integration of badging and learning platforms.

Broward County Public Schools are well prepared to achieve the vision it has set for itself of educating today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s world. By providing leaders, teachers and students with digital tools which revolutionize their teaching and learning program, Broward is equipping learners to be leaders wherever their path may lead.