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Curriculum | News

North Carolina District Teams with Knovation on Digital Curriculum

In a unique business arrangement a North Carolina district is sharing its Common Core curriculum with an education technology company that delivers digital learning resources that work with those materials, thereby expecting to generate up to $150,000 in revenue during the first year of the partnership. Cabarrus County Schools has signed a memorandum of understanding with Knovation, which is acquiring the rights to resell the district's standards-based curriculum. That has been written by 200-plus teachers over the course of the last three years. Each of 40 curriculum teams worked to unpack the North Carolina-specific standards and write curriculum that would meet those standards.

"Last year, we started to see that curriculum really develop," said Deputy Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum, who led the effort. "The next question became, how do we get customized content that really aligns to our curriculum and our sequencing and our picture of what instruction should look like in Cabarrus County?"

The district was moving to 1-to-1 device usage and the use of digital content at the same time. Teachers needed access to content that would mesh with the custom curriculum. An initial foray into the use of free online content found that the district lacked the manpower and expertise to check the quality of the content and align it with the standards.

At that point Knovation cropped up as a potential solution. The company maintains a searchable learning library of 360,000 digital objects tagged for state standards as well as a portal, icurio, that guides teachers, students and parents to the right resources.

While interested in using the library, Van Heukelum said he was also concerned that it would still require his teachers "to do a lot of work." So he proposed hiring Knovation to organize its tagging system in a way that would help his district's teachers find the right digital objects for use in the classroom by particular students, based on their learning styles, reading abilities and English language skills.

As he recalled, "I would say, 'Here's our biology curriculum. Can you create content to support that and organize it for our teachers?' They did that. We looked at it. We had our teachers play with it. They really liked it. So we started to do more and more of that."

It was then that Knovation realized that the work done by the district had value in it as well for other districts. The company came back to Van Heukelum and proposed a partnership that would allow other districts to take advantage of the curriculum and allow Cabarrus County to recoup some of its investment.

"Many districts, quite frankly, haven't done the hard work of unpacking standards and writing robust, rigorous curriculum for their teachers," Van Heukelum said. "They rely on their teachers to do that as independent contractors." Under the new arrangement, other schools will be able to license the use of his district's materials and Knovation's library of resources.

Although an obvious market for the offering would be other districts within North Carolina, it's not limited to that state's schools, particularly for math and English language arts. "Those two strands could be more of a national market," he noted.

This fall the district will use Knovation's work to personalize instruction in general science, biology, chemistry, Earth and environmental science, math and English language arts courses in multiple grade levels. Usage will expand for other grades and subjects in the future.

In a board of education meeting, Van Heukelum estimated that the arrangement with Knovation would generate $150,000 in its first year and $250,000 in its second year. He recommended that those revenues be applied to buying more resources for teachers.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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