Learning Platforms

Discovery Education Unveils Updated User Experience, Adds CBE Microlearning Channel, Doubles Quiz Library

K–12 learning platform Discovery Education this week unveiled a new layout and look for both teachers and students, doubled the size of its ready-to-use quiz library, improved search filters, added an Explore page with personalized content recommendations, and launched new professional microlearning focused on competency-based education with content partner Marzano Academies.

“We have made a lot of small changes that add up to a big increase in ease of use,” Discovery Education Senior Vice President Karen Beerer told THE Journal. “Teachers have had a really rough time, and we are hoping to make this easier for them.”

The students’ user experience has also been updated and simplified, in an effort to remove barriers for students doing homework on smartphones and to drive better student engagement, she said.

“The updated student dashboard shows students their activities, their assignments, what they’ve completed, what's due today, and what’s coming up — it’s much easier for students to navigate,” Beerer said in an interview with THE Journal. “So we really winnowed the student homepage down; students are pretty good with navigating any website, but the more simplistic we can make it for them, the more likely they are to see those unfinished assignments, and say, ‘Oh, wait, I gotta do I've got to do a report on sharks now.’

The updated website design for educators simplifies their experience as well, aiming to make it easier for teachers to find, build, and deliver lessons from the 200,000 resources on the DE platform, she said.

The ready-to-use quiz library, first launched last year, has doubled in size, with 400 quizzes now available, Beerer noted. Teachers can use them as is or make a copy of a quiz and revise it to fit their specific needs — or they can build their own quiz from scratch.

“The quiz library is built with accessibility in mind: Answer options vary from polls, multiple choice, and short answer,” Beerer said. “For younger students, it allows audio recording — they can speak and record their answers — and it allows annotation so they can draw their answer or work on an image.

“And all of this content uses Immersive Reader, so it can be read aloud to students, and in multiple languages — lots of ways to meet diverse student needs.”

Once an assignment has been made, teachers can now monitor students’ learning in real-time with the My Classrooms feature, “an intuitive new way to navigate between tracking student progress and assignments. The redesigned interface will help teachers better understand where students are and how to differentiate learning to meet their unique needs.”

A brand-new Explore page empowers educators to easily browse Discovery Education’s more than 200,000 unique digital resources by subject, then offers personalized suggestions based on their activity in the platform, grade levels, and topics of interest. Additionally, the search filters have been improved, Beerer said.

“Five or six years ago, when I told teachers, ‘You can go here and you can search for sharks, and 2,000 resources come up,’ that was considered a good thing,” she told THE Journal. “Well, today, that's not what they want to hear, they want to be able to more quickly find the videos or activities that are most valuable to them and match their district or state standards, so we’ve made that happen.”

The new student Explore page is customizable, like the teachers’ is, and it includes a chatbot “robot” character that challenges students to learning games and activities similar to the activities they’ve completed or shown interest in on the platform. “The new student interface builds agency, inspires learning, and promotes time on task,” Discovery Education said.

Discovery Education’s Studio tool for lesson-building and presentations has been overhauled with easier workflows as well, Beerer said, and educators are now able to:

  • Quickly preview Studio lessons or activities from the student perspective.
  • Use images as buttons for student navigation through activities.      
  • Enliven lessons with fun fonts and animated buttons. 
  • More easily adapt ready-to-use lessons and activities.

Helping Teachers Learn & Implement New Strategies

Perhaps the most unique addition to the platform is the CBE microlearning channel.

Discovery Education initially launched its Professional Learning NOW channel — with 3- to 5-minute “micro” courses — during COVID-19, focusing on topics such as remote teaching, remote learning, meeting the needs of English language learners, accelerating learning, health and wellness, primary learning, and more, Beerer explained.

As the pandemic made more obvious the shortcomings of the traditional classroom model, discussions about Robert Marzano’s research on and advocacy for the CBE model came up both internally and externally, she said.

“There's a lot of people out there saying CBE needs to come back, but no one's teaching teachers how to do it,” Beerer said. “So we were already considering, how can we bring all this research about teaching and learning together and make it easier for teachers? Then we were at an all at a conference together, and in talking with Dr. Marzano and hearing more about his Marzano Academies model, we began to discuss how we can work together to help our teachers.

“The whole the whole idea of competency-based education is really a whole-system model, but we wanted to provide teachers the tools they need so they can implement some of these proven CBE strategies and practices in their classroom,” she explained. “Even if they aren't going through the whole-system model of competency-based education, they can take some of these 16 school-level indicators and implement them in their classroom. These microlearnings break down how to plan and implement lessons within the classroom.”

The new Marzano Academies microlearning channel kicks off with a video introduction by Marzano himself. The channel launched this week with several microlearning segments, and more will be added regularly, Beerer said.

“The big topics of CBE such as proficiency scales, how do you assess student learning without the emphasis on testing and scores? What are the core tenants of general instruction in CBE? How do we engage students? How do we group and regroup them? What does efficacy look like? These topics will all be part of this microlearnings channel.”

In another effort to save educators time, Discovery Education has added compilations of learning resources comprising its own most popular assets and new resources from content partners, all organized by grade band and prioritized by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding.

Among the partners contributing to the new collections are Sesame Workshop for early learning content, Minecraft: Education Edition for Minecraft worlds and supporting classroom resources, STEM Careers Coalition for STEM career profiles and pathways, and interactive content from Vooks and PhET, the company said.

One example of “partner content” Beerer cited comes from Discovery Education’s partnership with DuPont and the Delaware Department of Education, launched last November. DDOE and DuPont are contributing to the development of STEM instructional content for DE’s platform — content that connects students directly to DuPont career fields and supports the state’s career and technical education programs.

Learn more at DiscoveryEducation.com.