New Report Offers Tech Blueprint for Student-Centric Learning

The traditional course management system isn't cutting it for schools trying to implement a student-centered learning model, according to a new report from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). After all, stated "Student-Centered Learning: Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems To Optimize Learning," the typical learning management system is course- and teacher-focused, while the best student-centric approaches must be able to track "how, when and where students learn; how they plan their learning and demonstrate mastery; how their progress is tracked and reported; how they access resources and the nature of the resources; how they communicate and collaborate with others; as well as how teacher, parents and other educators work with and support students."

The report examines the IT requirements for building a student-centered system that can help manage the needs of personalized learning. That's an approach to education that allows the student to follow an individual track of learning tasks assessed in unique ways and performed at his or her own pace. These frequently follow a competency method; the student only moves ahead after demonstrating mastery of the content. Personalized learning tends to take place not just in school but also after school and in non-traditional learning settings. Most importantly, the student takes responsibility for the learning that goes on, by monitoring his or her own progress and embedding areas of personal interest into the learning activities.

Therefore, the IT required to support personalized learning must allow teachers to "provision" learning experiences in a custom way for each student and provide "meaningful, timely feedback" from multiple sources.

The write-up is intended to serve as a framework to be used in planning as schools sort out what software to use as they shift to a student-centered model. Chapters in the 129-page document cover design requirements and use cases, how to shift from a traditional course management system to a student-centric system and what needs to be taken into account in designing a system intended to be used by the students themselves to get feedback, do personal reflection and monitor personal progress.

Core elements in a student-centric approach, as the report explained, include:

  • Customized learner profiles that combine data from source systems and input from students, parents, educators and others who work with the student;
  • Personalized learning plans that reflect learner progress;
  • A variety of learning experiences in and outside of school, as well as the data associated with those experiences;
  • Access to content, digital resources, human resources and tools;
  • Access to meaningful, timely feedback during the learning process;
  • The capacity to track multiple ways of demonstrating and assessing mastery toward competency;
  • Dashboards that reveal in real-time what concepts and objectives the student is struggling with, which students are at risk and what interventions might be used;
  • Analytic tools to support learning, teaching and administration; and
  • Integration of multiple systems and data streams using data and interoperability standards and practices.

"This paper will help school and district leaders prepare requests for proposals (RFPs) for new, integrated systems to support student-centered learning in understanding the requirements and needs beyond simple feature lists," said iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick, in a prepared statement. "The research helps identify the integrated systems functional requirements and specify needs of teachers and students in student-centered learning environments. As schools and districts analyze their own requirements, they can walk through the various scenarios in this report from the teachers' and students' perspectives to ensure that platforms can meet the practical needs of student-centered learning."

iNACOL is a non-profit organization that examines new learning approaches, including competency-based instruction and blended and online education. The new report is openly available on the iNACOL website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.