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With the explosion of online courses and blended learning in K-12 and higher education, a unique collaboration among Davidson College, edX, The College Board, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and 2Revolutions does far more than simply offer another Massive Online Open Course (MOOC).

Rather, the collaboration, which was recently covered in The New York Times and Washington Post, will design, build, test and deliver a comprehensive plan allowing teachers and learners to personalize learning around the most challenging concepts in Advanced Placement (AP) physics, macroeconomics and calculus courses.

Ultimately, the collaboration aims to make high quality learning experiences free and accessible to all, and eliminate barriers to student success. By integrating concept-based online units into a blended learning framework, the project will help students from a variety of academic backgrounds access and master some of the most difficult subject matter in AP courses.

Based on AP test data and decades of experience in teaching and testing AP material, collaborators identified 8 to 15 challenging concepts in each of the three core subject areas; these will serve as the core learning objectives in each online module.

Using the edX learning platform, the collaboration is developing online materials and assessments, organized as outlined in the figure below.  

Sample Module Configuration

The partners completed the design phase in the fall of 2013 and plan a fall 2014 pilot rollout in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System. After revising the modules based on careful evaluation and focus group feedback from the pilot, the collaboration will offer the modules to the world during a fall 2015 rollout on the edX platform.

Blended Learning for Mastery

Module outcomes and measures will focus on mastery learning—the presentation of instruction in ordered steps that require the learner to demonstrate mastery of each prerequisite step in the learning sequence. Moreover, social learning, connectivism approaches and revised Blooms for Web 2.0 tasks will augment the design and learning opportunities for module users.

Using these online modules, students and teachers will address the most challenging concepts in blended AP high school courses. While students will be able to access the online materials independently, instructor versions of the modules will allow instructors and students in any district to use the modules synchronously via a variety of social, mobile and bug-in-the-ear methods.

If combined with emerging technologies, such as  wearable computers  and Google Glass, these modules could enhance the effectiveness of blended learning techniques such as tutoring and reteaching.

Consistent with state shifts toward mastery learning (via Smarter Balanced and PARCC),

the blended teaching and learning methods in each module will provide multiple ways for students to learn, unlearn and relearn (Toffler) difficult subject matter.  This customized approach to teaching also aligns with the growing focus on demonstrating and credentialing competency in American education.

The modular framework will serve as a scalable model for the online and blended learning landscape as technology companies, school districts, teachers and families seek to personalize the learning experience.

With the integration of blended treatments into a mastery-based learning environment for AP courses a new generation of teachers and learners will benefit from the power of blended pedagogy.

This collaboration takes an innovative and significant next step toward the modularization and personalization that so many learners are already experiencing in a You Tube world.

Stay tuned for project updates this spring as the brightest minds in AP content “blend” with some of the nation’s top designers of future learning environments.

Dr. Patrick Sellers is an Associate Dean for Curriculum and Professor of Political Science at Davidson College. Bryan Setser is a Partner at 2 Revolutions. 

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