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Aurora Institute

4 Ways Learning Infrastructure Supports Personalized Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick, Dale Frost, Maria Worthen

Issue(s): State Policy

Student In Class Reading With TeacherA well-distributed, statewide “learning infrastructure” is essential to implementing personalized learning at scale. Learning infrastructure includes robust broadband connectivity, secure, learner-centered data systems and openly licensed content. These systems and supports can improve equity by making powerful, personalized learning possible for every student, anytime and anywhere.

Important elements of learning infrastructure for personalized, competency-based learning include:

  • High-speed, anytime/anywhere internet access for each student;
  • Secure, learner-centered data systems;
  • Open educational resources (OER); and
  • Effective governance of student data privacy and security.

State policymakers can help support equitable access to, and sustainability of, personalized learning by advancing policies to build and improve learning infrastructure.

High-Speed Internet Access

High-speed broadband internet access is critical for educators and students to have anytime, anywhere learning at their fingertips. The promise of next generation learning, driven by blended and online modalities, can only be realized at scale, when all students, regardless of geography and socio-economic status, have equitable access to connectivity.

Policymakers can leverage Federal E-Rate funds and use state strategies such as pooled purchasing agreements, statewide contracts, and direct appropriations to significantly increase schools’ access to high-speed broadband connectivity.

Anytime, anywhere learning means that students have access to a variety of learning opportunities and environments. States should advance policies to make no- or low-cost broadband access available to economically disadvantaged students at home and in their communities.

States could also provide outreach or encourage districts to ensure families know about and can easily access the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program. Lifeline now provides affordable internet access to low-income families. States could also explore policies and partnerships to increase community access to connectivity like wifi access on buses or city-wide wifi access.

Data Systems Aligned to Personalized Learning

Effective data systems allow educators to monitor and report on student achievement and progress, each step of the way on a student’s learning trajectory. Data systems that foster student-centered learning:

  • Chart each student’s learner profile;
  • Capture meaningful assessment data;
  • Allow reporting of competencies and competency levels;
  • Track actionable information to facilitate just-in-time supports and interventions;
  • Store portfolios of student work; and
  • Are accessible to and easily used by educators, students and parents.

To better support accountability for continuous improvement, data systems should be capable of effectively aggregating data that reflects actual student competency. In addition, these systems must disaggregate data by student subgroups for state reporting purposes and should be able to pinpoint the students that need additional supports to succeed.

In May 2016, iNACOL released Student-Centered Learning: Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems to Optimize Learning, a report that illustrates the technical requirements and functionalities that data systems need to shift toward student-centered instructional models.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER are openly-licensed learning materials that educators can share, access and customize. They provide a foundation of customizable content for personalizing learning and increase opportunities for educator collaboration and engagement.

Because they are freely available, OER can have a positive fiscal impact, saving limited education funds on textbooks and other learning materials. In reallocating savings from licensing or royalty fees, states and districts should consider the additional resources required to develop the capacity of educators to access and effectively use high-quality OER.

State leaders wanting to promote OER should require all learning materials and resources developed using public money to be openly licensed. They also can include openly licensed materials on state instructional materials lists and support the development and maintenance of OER. States could use funds under Title IV of ESSA to support OER infrastructure and training.

Student Data Privacy and Security

Effective use of data is critical for educators to personalize learning. To protect student data privacy, states should ensure policies promote good governance, privacy and security of student data. States should avoid prohibitive policies that can impede the appropriate use of data for instruction. Balanced data privacy policies ensure proper protection and use of personally identifiable student data while, at the same time, enable personalized learning to close achievement gaps.

State Policy Recommendations

  • Expand and improve high-speed, broadband connectivity to ensure student opportunities for anytime, anywhere learning by:
    • Examining contracting strategies and pooled purchasing agreements to support cost-effective contracting for schools and districts;
    • Allowing any K–12 education program in the state to buy off of statewide enterprise contracts to maximize telecommunications investments with public dollars and E-Rate funds; and
    • Exploring state strategies to make free or discounted broadband connectivity available to economically disadvantaged students at home and in their communities for anytime, anywhere learning.
  • Support the development of data systems aligned to personalized, competency-based learning.
  • Develop state data systems to collect, in real-time, standards-based, baseline and longitudinal data to measure student growth over time to promote continuous improvement.
  • Ensure content, learning materials and professional development resources created with public funds are made publicly available as OER.
  • Include OER on approved state instructional materials lists and support the development and maintenance of openly licensed instructional materials aligned with state standards.
  • Establish policies for the protection and good governance of student data privacy and avoid prohibitions that could have unintended consequences for the ability of educators to personalize learning.

This is the seventh blog in a series to highlight state policy recommendations to create a foundation for sustainable, systemic change that will dramatically increase personalized, competency-based learning opportunities for all students.

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