I recently had the opportunity to take a quick trip out to St. Louis, Missouri. Thanks to air travel, I was transported from the east coast to the Midwest rather quickly. Anyway, I made the trek to this historic city - home of the amazing Gateway Arch-- to attend the awards banquet sponsored by the United States Distance Learning Association.
In terms of goodies, I returned home with three beautiful plaques for K¹², in recognition of the following:
• 21ST CENTURY AWARDS FOR BEST PRACTICES IN DISTANCE LEARNING for K¹² Inc
• OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP BY AN INDIVIDUAL IN THE FIELD OF DISTANCE LEARNING for Ron Packard, CEO, K¹²
• BEST PRACTICES AWARDS FOR DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMMING (Bronze level) for the K¹² Honors Earth Science course
There was intense competition for these coveted awards, so the announcements to honor K¹² that evening made me feel quite proud. Banquet attendees included professionals from all over the country, representing all levels of education, but we had one common purpose: striving to be the best of the best in the dynamic world of online learning. Competition can be healthy and productive, especially when competitors learn from each other. In the Product Development team, where I work at K¹², we value research and continuous learning, whether that means research to inform best practices or information-gathering to discover what’s going on in the field of virtual education.
While in St. Louis, that awesome Gateway Arch is almost always in view. That structure reminded me that rising up to attempt something new takes vision and courage. Turning that dream into reality requires determination and persistence. And, keeping that flame alive takes continuous hard work and dedication. On a small scale, every new K¹² course-build is a microcosm of that process. The development team begins with standards, integrating these foundational frameworks with fresh ideas and checking to see how well creative suggestions match relevant research. From there, we start the process of producing content packaged in the form of a storyboard.
What’s that all about? Well, it’s kind of like wrapping carefully articulated text with colorful assets and graphics to make concepts come alive. No matter how many times I experience this transition process, it’s still a thrill. Just this week, the science team created a brand new lesson on cloud formation for middle school learners. I am always amazed when I see how detailed scientific information gets transformed into a delightful display of content, all in a matter of days! You’ve heard the expression that “a picture says a thousand words,” but it’s even more accurate to say that “a visual is a powerful, memorable delivery mechanism for complex concepts.”
When we received the award for the Earth Science Honors course at USDLA, I had a flashback to when my colleagues and I were writing objectives for the original high school earth science course a few years ago. There was a ton of stuff we wanted to cover, and I was wondering how we’d fit it all in, especially the more challenging concepts. What happened? For starters, the design team applied incredible creativity and talent to the task, and before you know it, the earth science course was well on its way to becoming a world-class example of high quality science instruction. Over time, the course has been improved, and eventually, the honors course emerged with new activities and learning strategies incorporated into the initial design. That’s also part of the process: build on a solid foundation, but keep looking for ways to raise the bar. There’s no limit!
You might be wondering how this blog post fits in with my usual “green” theme. For one thing, most of what we do in the product development process is paper-free. Rather than the traditional method of producing hard copies of draft lessons, all work is created, reviewed, and revised electronically. Then, instead of producing a printed book to deliver course content, the majority of K¹² instruction is delivered virtually. Sure, we have printed materials to support course content, but they are supplements, rather than serving as the main component for learning.
So, virtual education and the hard work invested in developing courses delivered online are predominantly accomplished with paperless methods. That’s a pretty strong statement of going green.
Congratulations to K¹² for the USDLA awards!