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Aurora Institute

Infrastructure, Data Systems, Student Data Privacy, and OER Are Critical to Scaling Personalized Learning

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issues: Federal Policy, Increase Access to Broadband, Issues in Practice


bigstock-Boy-Watches-Machine-Intently--66705370---webTo enable the shift to personalized learning at scale across K-12 education statewide, a robust learning infrastructure must be in place. By learning infrastructure, we mean:

  • High speed, anytime/anywhere internet access for every student;
  • Learner-centered data systems;
  • Student data privacy and security; and
  • Open educational resources (OER).

Broadband Infrastructure

High-speed broadband connectivity for schools is essential to meet the demands of media-rich, adaptive online instructional content, adaptive assessment, and real-time data collection that supports personalized instruction accessible anytime, anywhere.

Utah

In 1989, the Utah legislature created the Utah Education Network (UEN), and renamed and reauthorized it in 2014 as the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN). The UETN coordinates and supports the telecommunications needs of public and higher education, public libraries, and entities affiliated with the state systems of public and higher education as approved by the Utah Education and Telehealth Network Board, including the statewide development and implementation of a network for education, which utilizes satellite, microwave, fiber-optic, broadcast, and other transmission media.

In the 1990s, the state appropriated $20 million to connect schools to the UEN. It now serves about 98% of schools in the state.

A key factor in the UEN’s design was leveraging resources within the network– for example, allowing secondary school students to use the university system’s distance learning programs to earn dual credit. A second important component of UEN’s success is its leveraging of private investments with public funds with competitive bidding with service providers. The network infrastructure is owned by the service providers and leased by the UEN consortium for schools and libraries. Through its competitive bidding process, Utah has leveraged the construction of a world class network; this is an incentive for service providers to participate in the UEN because the robust infrastructure gives them a competitive marketing edge with private customers. Finally, schools purchasing the discounted network services go through the UEN (which handles the Federal E-Rate program state-wide), saving educational administrators valuable time from bureaucratic processes.

Florida

Florida passed legislation in 2014 that:

  • Requires that the legislature annually appropriate funds to implement the Florida digital classrooms plan; and
  • Requires each district to adopt a district digital classrooms plan to include measurable student performance outcomes; digital learning and technology infrastructure purchases and operational activities including connectivity, broadband access, wireless capacity, Internet speed, and data security; professional development purchases to improve digital literacy and competency; and online assessment-related purchases and operational activities.

Data Systems

Next-generation accountability requires robust data systems capable of supporting competency-based pathways and personalized learning.

Information technology systems that chart each student’s learner profile with levels of proficiency attainment, connected to portfolios of student work, and capture meaningful assessment down to the level of the academic standard help manage data to foster student-centered learning. It is important for educators to be able to monitor and report on proficiency level at each step of the way on student progress. Likewise, information technology and integrated learning systems must be student-centric to allow ease of use for educators, students and parents alike. Data needs to be protected and secure. This requires the design and architecture of information systems to support transparency of student progression through identified sets of competencies with evidence and access to the data-driven instructional tools educators need for next generation learning.

Student Data Privacy and Security

Within the proper safeguards, data-driven instruction is key for educators to personalize learning. It is critical to enact balanced policies that provide good governance practices to ensure proper protection and use of personally identifiable student data, while at same time enabling new learning models and modalities to personalize learning and close achievement gaps. Policymakers should take care not to stifle innovation through prohibitive policies on student data, which can result in unintended consequences.

California’s SB 1177 from 2014 does the following:

  • Prohibits an operator of an Internet website, online service, online application, or mobile application from knowingly engaging in targeted advertising to students or their parents or legal guardians, using covered information to amass a profile about a K–12 student, selling a student’s information, or disclosing covered information, as provided.
  • Requires an operator to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the covered information, to protect the information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure, and to delete a student’s covered information if the school or district requests deletion of data under the control of the school or district.
  • Does not limit the ability of an operator to use student data, including covered information, for adaptive learning or customized student learning purposes.
  • Shall not be construed to prohibit an operator of an Internet Website, online service, online application, or mobile application from marketing educational products directly to parents so long as the marketing did not result from the use of covered information obtained by the operator through the provision of services covered under this section from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure, and to delete a student’s covered information if the school or district requests deletion of data under the control of the school or district.
  • Does not limit the ability of an operator to use student data, including covered information, for adaptive learning or customized student learning purposes.
  • Shall not be construed to prohibit an operator of an Internet Website, online service, online application, or mobile application from marketing educational products directly to parents so long as the marketing did not result from the use of covered information obtained by the operator through the provision of services covered under this section.

Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are learning materials licensed to freely permit educators to share, access, and collaborate to customize and personalize content and instruction. OER promote student-centered and personalized learning materials that help maximize state and district education budgets because they are meant to be used and reused without the licensing or royalty fees typically found in traditional instructional materials.  Additionally, OER can help a state educational system use its resources wisely and efficiently. By promoting policy that helps districts and educators create, evaluate, and document OER, state educational leaders can help educators in their state spend their time and resources more wisely.

OER are gaining traction as supplements and replacements for traditional instructional methods. States across the country are enacting related legislation and starting initiatives in a variety of ways. State leaders wanting to integrate OER can make sure that openly licensed materials are included in state instructional materials lists, and support the development and maintenance of OER in the form of materials, devices, or infrastructure needed to implement high-quality online and blended curriculum and assessments.

Washington

Washington’s HB 2337 from 2012 required the state to do the following:

  • Develop a library of openly licensed courseware and makes it available to school districts free of charge.
  • Provide that the goal of the library, as stated in the law, is “to provide students with curricula and texts while substantially reducing the expenses that districts would otherwise incur in purchasing these materials.
  • Provide that the library of openly licensed courseware will provide districts and students with a broader selection of materials, and materials that are more up-to-date”.
  • Provide financial support afforded toward the implementation of the policy: nearly $1 million over the next five years to fund full-time staff to oversee the development of the library and promote OER adoption.
  • Permit a temporary reallocation of existing instructional materials funds to be used to support the development and implementation of the open course library.

Utah

Utah’s administrative rule R277-111 (2009) allows state employees to create openly licensed materials using public funds.

Why These Issues Are Crucial for Personalized Learning

When thinking about transitioning to competency-based, personalized learning environments, it is often easy to pinpoint policy barriers (like seat-time requirements). Broadband, data systems, student data privacy and security, and OER may seem like tangential policy issues, but these infrastructure-related policies are just as enabling or prohibitive as the other issues. Personalized learning thrives when enabling infrastructure and related policies are enacted with student-centered learning in mind.

Interested in other promising policies for personalized learning? See our other blogs in this series:

Learn More:


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