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Choosing Digital Curriculum
by Bruce Friend

I was reading a homeschool blog web forum recently and came across a submission from a parent who is new to homeschooling and was seeking advice on what criteria to look for when selecting a curriculum for use with her student.  While I have not homeschooled my children, her question made me the pause and think how I would answer that question as it relates to incorporating digital content

When reviewing digital content to use as part of your instructional materials, or perhaps even a complete online course, there are factors to consider that are both similar and different to what you may look for in a traditional text-based curriculum resource.  Three examples include:

Who is the publisher content?  The internet provides us with access to materials and information in a way never before seen by previous generations of students.  With this however is the reality is that we all know what is published online is not often vetted for truth nor academically appropriate.  Sticking with digital content that was professionally developed by organizations and/or teachers who have experience in producing educational materials is typically your best choice.

What standards are the content aligned to?  While “teaching to state standards” may not be the goal of many homeschool families, there is value in checking on which academic standards the content is designed to address.  If alignment to state school board approved standards is not relevant in your decision making, consider the standards set forth by the various curriculum counsels such as the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, English, etc.  Reputable digital content publishers will have this information readily available.

What ancillary materials are required?  When reviewing digital content and online courses, be sure to find out if there are additional resources that your student will need.  Ancillary materials could be an accompanying textbook or workbook to purchase, lab kits, or even software downloads that may be required; all of which could add to the overall cost of implementation.

These are just a few of the questions that you will want to consider.  Equally important are questions related to cost, how assessments are delivered, how student performance is reported, and the over interactive elements of the digital content.  This last one is especially important in my experience.  Asking students to utilize digital content that lacks interaction is about as fun and exciting for them as being told to read a textbook from cover to cover.

If you have questions about the use of online learning and what options may be available to you, feel free to email me at: bruce.friend@sas.com

Bruce Friend is the Director of SAS® Curriculum Pathways®, an award-winning education resource that provides online lessons, engaging tools and activities at no cost to U.S. educators.  Bruce has spent the past decade working in the field of online learning.  He is a national pioneer in helping to establish the country’s first statewide online program and has been the chief administrator of two state virtual schools.
In 2003 he was honored with the “Most Outstanding Achievement in Distance Education” award by the US Distance Learning Association.  Prior to joining SAS, Bruce was the Vice President of the International Association for K12 Online Learning; a non-profit organization that provides support to students, parents, and online learning programs.