Supporting an Equitable Learning Experience With Digital Materials  

Do your digital materials support an equitable learning experience for students participating in remote instruction? You may consider adding this question to your selection rubric as you consider which materials to continue using or purchase next year. 

This fall, a state education agency hired Learning List to review 83 core digital materials across the four core content areas to determine the extent to which each material supports remote instruction. One of the goals of these reviews was to determine whether the materials provide a similar and equitable learning experience for students learning remotely and students in the classroom. For this analysis, we examined four aspects of each material:

Boy working at computer with headphones.

Which components of each digital material were printable? It is especially important for the core instruction (i.e., lessons, texts, activities, and quizzes) to be available offline or printable.

Which features did the digital material include to make the remote learning experience similar to the experience of learning in the classroom? We looked for features like hyperlinked glossaries, interactive activities with automated feedback, instructional videos, online labs, and/or virtual field trips.

Did the material’s platform allow students to complete and submit their work online? Did the material’s platform allow teachers to review students’ work online and provide feedback? We recognize that many districts integrate their digital materials into a Learning Management System (LMS), and students and teachers rely on the LMS’ tools to submit assignments and review student work. However, not all districts have a LMS, and a material’s platform may not be compatible with the district’s LMS. So, we examined whether the material’s platform provided this type of functionality. 

Did the material’s platform allow students to interact with one another and/or with the teacher in real-time? In class, students communicate with one another and with their teacher. If an online material is going to provide a similar learning experience, it needs to provide students and teachers the opportunity to communicate synchronously.  We found that many materials rely on LMS tools to support communication; however, some materials’ platforms contained discussion boards and other communication tools.  

Whether or not your district will not have to provide widespread remote instruction in the future; there are several other circumstances, such as during severe weather events, student illness, or other long-term student absences, where the district may want to rely on remote, asynchronous instruction for individuals or small groups of students. Keeping these criteria in mind will help you purchase materials that will support all students with an equitable learning experience.   

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