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Increasing Student Achievement Through Engaging Digital Curriculum

Fostering high achievement through personalized, blended learning

A variety of research indicates that an engaged and motivated student is more likely to be a high-achieving student. But what does student engagement look like in a digital environment? To keep all students motivated—especially those who struggle or are disengaged—educators need to ensure that engagement is built into the DNA of the curriculum. In a digital environment, engaged students experience more personalized learning and are more likely to actively participate in their learning.

In this web seminar, Michael Horn and three district leaders discussed how a well-designed digital curriculum ensures that real learning takes place, engages students and leads to higher achievement. They also provided examples of districts and schools that use personalized learning to increase student motivation and graduation rates, and share best practices that can help any district provide a path to success for all students.

Co-Founder and
Distinguished Fellow,
Clayton Christensen Institute
for Disruptive Innovation

There are two fundamental goals that almost all students have: 1) They want to experience success and make real progress. 2) They want to have fun with friends. It turns out that school as it’s currently structured doesn’t do either of these particularly well. The opportunities to experience success and make progress, because of the “analog” version of school that’s very time-based, occurs only every three to four weeks at the end of a unit when it’s time to take an exam. Similarly, the opportunities to have fun with friends are often found only in extracurricular activities.

Digital learning experiences can and should be active experiences—constant opportunities where students are engaging with the material, answering questions and getting immediate feedback on how they did. You can personalize digital learning so you can pitch at the right level so that students don’t just conclude that they can’t master it, but not too easy that they’re bored.

Chief Academic Officer,
Broward County School
District (Fla.)

In Broward County, we have to set up programs that are measured by results. We have to ensure that each learner is engaged and retained. One of the things we’ve put a lot of focus on is that unless a student is present and focused, even our best programs stand no chance for success. Once students are present, we need an engaging curriculum that will meet the degree of rigor for what a high school diploma needs to mean after they move on.

The use of digital technology is proving to be a game-changer in the sense that our curriculum is now able to be guided rather than dictated. We cannot script the time that students are going to take to learn any given skill or body of knowledge. We do need benchmarks and built-in feedback mechanisms, so that our teachers are becoming conductors of experiences who are changing the pace at which that occurs.

Chief of Schools,
Broward County School

Over the last couple of years we have instituted some strategies to help us not only ensure that our students are successful in high school, but that they graduate college and are career ready. One of the things that we are most proud of is the multiple options that students have for credit recovery. The Apex platform offers the multiple options that our students need, including doing some credit recovery in their home high school, or if they are significantly credit deficient, they have the option of transitioning to one of our alternative high schools. These schools are not time-based—students move at their own pace.

This credit recovery option is extremely flexible. They can take courses anywhere from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. It attends to the need of that student who does have to work at different hours of the day but still wants to graduate. The classes are very small, and we personalize the learning for each student.

Executive Director of
Secondary Academic Affairs,
Westerville City Schools (Ohio)

In the Westerville City Schools, 16 years ago we invested in a program that we call Education Options For Success, or EOS, to provide options for students who have not performed well in the traditional high schools and have transitioned to a credit recovery program. Very much like Broward County, we have been very pleased with our relationship with Apex and the options they have provided so that our students can graduate.

It seems like a very lofty goal, but we want to graduate everyone within our school district. We think we can attain that, and we want to make sure that not only do they graduate, but that they are either enrolled in a two-year or four-year university, that they are employed (preferably with an industry-recognized credential), or that they are enlisted in the military.

We developed this program to catch students who have fallen through the cracks for whatever reason, and they come here and have a great deal of success.

Director, Alternative
Education & Assessment,
Westerville City Schools

The EOS program focuses on student engagement—securing progress short-term and long-term, and also creating student experiences that will lead to success.

The other thing we focus on is goal-setting. When students come in, they set how many lessons they want to complete that day. At the end of the day they say how many lessons they actually completed. Our teachers then get feedback on that, and we email a report to parents and also give the students a hard copy.

We do consider the fact that without data, you’re just another person with an opinion. So we track all of our students in terms of the number of credits they’ve earned, the courses they’ve taken, attendance, and their social-emotional development. Every one of our students who is a potential graduate has a success coach, who is one of our faculty members. We monitor on a weekly basis that we interact to ensure that we’re meeting those students’ needs.

Strategic Partnerships
Apex Learning

For those of you who are not familiar with Apex Learning, we partner with districts to provide effective digital curriculum that actively engages students in learning. Actionable, real-time data informs instruction and empowers educators to personalize learning for all students. Success management ensures you get the outcomes you are expecting.

In our partnerships, we help our districts improve graduation rates, lower dropout rates and increase college and career readiness through the support we’re able to provide them and the unique instructional design of our digital curriculum. We set high expectations, with content that is relevant and engaging, rigorous and accessible. Embedded supports and scaffolds guide diverse learners so that students develop a deeper understanding of the concepts and build the skills, tools and knowledge to be successful whether they’re going right into the workforce or to a two-year college or four-year college. We want to make sure that our students are actively engaged in their learning and motivated to succeed.

We strive to help provide an environment where students can take ownership of their learning, and remove the barriers of time and place, path and pace. Apex Learning puts rigorous, standards-based digital curriculum within reach for all students—from those struggling to those capable of acceleration—so they are prepared for college, work and life.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: