Skip to content
Aurora Institute

What Else Could They Learn? Part I

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Ed Jones

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

How can we expand the depth and breadth of high school learning?

Credit Flexibility offers a vast range of opportunities to engage and motivate students. It can customize learning for individual students. At the same time it can broaden a cohort’s collective learning.

While the states are still trying to figure out competency-based learning strategies, Ohio has in place a law that essentially permits every HS student to elect their own strategy of learning. Think about that.

As the knowledge needed by a skilled worker and informed citizen keeps climbing, as college grads increasingly lack in the breadth a liberal education should entail, here’s a big opportunity for students to dig in. By using Credit Flex to unbundle learning, students can increase their High School experience, add more subjects, or explore some to greater depth.

This post doesn’t claim that the resources to do this are all available today. What’s critical is to accelerate the process. Let’s empower students, teachers, and developers to work together, in a spiral development cycle, to build this option.

What are some examples?

  • Applied STEM
    Throughout Ohio, activities and camps like Air Camp USA and Buckeye Women In Engineering Camp invite students to get excited about science and engineering. What if these events served more as a beginning to credit-earning work?  What if a digital course let students explore STEM as applied in aerospace, factory automation, urban planning, coal mining, semiconductor production, industrial enzyme applications, etc?
  • Programming
    Like math classes, programming teaches discipline and the skills to turn problems into symbols and identify algorithms to solve them. Programming also has a wonderful instant feedback quality that may appeal to students. CodeSchool, Coursera, Khan Academy, and C2SN, are some of the resources teaching programming online.
  • Robotics
    We are really just entering in full the era of robotics. To date, robotics has required high capital investment. That’s now changing dramatically with hobbyist controllers like Arduino, guidable factory robots like Rethink’s Baxter, and a wealth of robotics kits and software. Robotics again teaches the step-by-step discipline of making things work, along with math (control laws), computer science concepts, teamwork, and international collaboration. Coursera, Udacity, and C2SN are starting places for thinking about how to do this in High School.
  • Financial Analysis
    We’ve all learned how Wall Street hired tons of physics PhDs to extract really big bucks from the trading and lending systems. While another generation of quants may not be a huge world need, graduates with broad math basics is. Many students might find their math more palatable when it’s presented in badgeable chunks (e.g. Khan Academy) and baked into a finance course. iTunes can provide content on financial analysis which can be both a means and an end-goal/badge for learning math.
  • Probability and Statistics
    So much of how professionals view the world is presented in terms of probabilities. We’re all this year inundated by polls; we’re supposed to make sense of tax plans and global warming research; health statistics are supposed to make us change our habits. Many education leaders think probability and statistics might rightly be called ‘citizen math” because adults encounter it more than Algebra and Trigonometry. Its math students can tie to the adult world.
  • Bio Sciences
    Ohio’s science standards allow for one year of biology. With the need for health care workers exploding, and the coming age of biosciences for computing tools, micro-machinery, human performance enhancement, genetic diagnosis, prevention and manipulation, students need far more bioscience options.
    Principles of Biology is a new interactive text for the college level; could it be tailored for HS students? Plenty of online activities exist; Harvard’s med school has a fascinating Health & Science series on iTunesU; Human Anatomy is an Android App. How can such resources be combined for quality credit?

Today, most of us are still thinking of K12 courses as lecture/work/test. Most digital courses will still be in that format. Yet what we really want is to get to full gameplay. CreditFlex can help accelerate that.

As Digital learning explodes, like any new movement, it will have its quality challenges. We created as one open tool to take on these challenges directly and publicly, and (most importantly) with student engagement.

What’s the next step?

In part II, we’ll look at ways Credit Flex can help round out an liberal education.

Ed Jones is an advocate for customized digital learning and open education resources. He built and explores Credit Flexibility a website that brings resources to students and teachers. He studied management and engineering at UCLA and University of Illinois and has a B.S. in Physics from Carnegie-Mellon