How Does Digital Curriculum Serve Diverse Student Needs?

By Jean Sharp, Vice President of Content Development

How do we ensure digital curriculum is supporting the diverse needs of students? Developing curriculum that meets a wide range of learning needs can be a challenge, but at Apex Learning we begin by recognizing that students arrive in the classroom with a variety of experiences and skills. We then intentionally design instruction in a manner that makes content accessible to learners by anticipating the supports that a good teacher or learning coach would employ in the classroom. Learn about the many ways Apex curriculum is designed to serve the diverse student needs.

Promoting Engagement

Apex Learning promotes engagement through strategies that support the diverse needs of learners. Our instructional designers, content writers, and subject matter experts have deep expertise in their content domain. Just as importantly, they have relevant experience teaching this content to students. Drawing from classroom experience, our team knows that supporting learners means employing a variety of strategies to help them make meaning from content, including:

  • activating prior knowledge
  • chunking instruction into smaller steps
  • providing real world examples to make content relevant 
  • providing additional practice
  • offering enrichment that extends learning to other concepts

 

Our students also tell us that it is important to see themselves reflected in digital content. We promote engagement by ensuring that the courses reflect the population of the students we are serving. Through our use of media, including imagery and video as well as relevant real world examples, we strive to connect the content with our learners. For instance, students using Apex Learning’s digital curriculum are typically middle and high school students between the ages of 13 and 18 years of age. Older students who continue to work toward completing their high school diploma are also part of our student body. Our content respectfully considers the age of the learner. The examples we use to illustrate concepts and content are derived from activities that are relatable to students in this age group.

Active Learning Strategies

Active Learning Strategies

We know that students learn best when they are actively engaged with the content. Rather than expecting students to learn by passively watching, reading and listening, Apex Learning students learn by doing. We integrate active learning into every lesson: students progress through course content by interacting with each concept as they are prompted to observe, explore, inquire, create, connect, and confirm. Formative feedback is immediately provided as students apply their understanding, creating a continuous interplay with the content that keeps students attentive and motivated.

Take, for example, how we incorporate active learning strategies within our English courses. We understand that struggling readers may need additional support while engaging with and making sense of complex text. So we provide direct instruction on active reading strategies that support comprehension, including:

  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Asking and answering questions
  • Drawing inferences
  • Making mental images
  • Monitoring and applying fix-up strategies
  • Predicting or revising predictions  
  • Using text features and visual cues, and
  • Summarizing

 

During instruction these active reading strategies are applied and contextualized with the content directly from the grade level course.

Processing Material

We provide students with opportunities to consume and process the material, and these experiences are presented in a way that supports diverse learners. In our courses, content is presented many times and many ways. For instance, key concepts and understandings that students need to know can be presented through direct instruction; reinforced in practice or check-up activities; summarized in a video-based review; and explored through interactives that check for understanding. In this way students are exposed to the content more than once and using multiple representations.

Relatedly, the features and functionality within our course environments are carefully constructed to support the diverse learning needs of students. A few examples are audio support, translation, closed captioning, and other programmatic features.

Supports and Scaffolds That Support Diverse Student Needs

In the moment of instruction, when students need help understanding the concepts, we incorporate supports and scaffolds to assist with learning. Our design supports an opt-in approach in which these supports are available to students when they need them. And, if the student does not need help understanding a particular concept, these supports and scaffolds will not disrupt the grade level instruction that students must master. Here are a just few examples of how we embed supports and scaffolds to support learning:

  • Academic vocabulary:  In our content, we provide key term and word assists to support the student’s development of academic vocabulary. Rather than defining the terms in the text, definitions and examples are offered in roll-over support.
  • Activating prior knowledge: Sometimes a student needs a reminder to connect new learning with something they have been introduced to in the past. We employ support cards as a tool for “just in time” reminders that support students interaction with grade level content. Recalling a mathematical formula or solving a mathematical equation may require a reminder—of the process or the steps to get started. This support is optional but available. And for the student who knows what they need to do, this information is not interfering with the work at hand. 
  • Modeled responses: This instructional strategy is used to provide an exemplar that guides student responses to a question or writing prompt in the course. It models what an appropriate response would look like and what it includes. And, rather than looking at the question prompt with no guidance on what is expected in the response, the modeled responses move the student toward an appropriate and complete answer.

 

One of the instructional strategies that is designed to support students through direct instruction is our Study Guides. Study Guides are provided for every Study activity and can best be described as a guided note-taking tool. They provide questions that students should be able to answer once they have engaged with the direct instruction in a Study. Students tell us that this tool supports not only their note-taking, but also their learning. In contrast, note-taking “features” are evident in competitive products, but they often resemble a pop-up window that allows students a space to take notes online. As you can imagine, if the student does not have good note-taking skills, this approach does little to guide the student to the most salient and important concepts in the instruction. At Apex Learning, our Study Guides provide insight into the key take-aways from the Study, ask probing questions, and encourage students to answer questions that promote higher order thinking skills. In other words, Study Guides support student note-taking and subsequently their understanding of the content.

 

At Apex Learning, we recognize that diversity of learning needs is inherent in the population of students we serve. Our goal is provide grade level content that is accessible and supports the diverse needs of students. Contact our experts to learn more.

 

 

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