Are new software platforms revving the engine of competency-based blended learning? This week, Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) released a comprehensive summary of Spark, a new platform built by the team at Matchbook Learning to help one of the schools it operates, Merit Prep, realize its goal of supporting blended and competency-based learning. The report looks at how Spark came about and where it may be headed in the coming years. The new tool is certainly exciting in and of itself, but it also reflects broader activity in the still relatively slim overlap of blended and competency-based approaches on the ground.
As I wrote about nearly a year ago, technology tools still lag some of the aspirations of competency-based and blended school systems. Yet Spark now joins a small but growing set of software programs designed to help competency-based schools that are using a variety of online learning programs to deliver blended instruction. Products like Project Foundry, Empower (by Educate), JumpRope, Engrade, and Buzz (powered by Agilix) orchestrate tasks like content delivery, assessment, and data dashboards in schools pursuing blended learning and competency-based education in various capacities. Other school systems are even turning to Salesforce for Education, which doesn’t offer the same real-time assessment data or online learning content delivery as those mentioned above, but does allow for individual scheduling and tracking of student information in a more competency-based manner.
All of these platforms are trying to tackle new challenges that educators face as they wade into the blended and competency-based spaces. Not only do blended learning educators want students to enjoy a seamless online learning experience, but they also want up-to-date information on how students are performing in online work to inform what they teach offline. And to make these blended learning experiences fit into a competency-based progression, educators also want to be able to track student mastery on an individual basis, and advance students to new or more challenging material when they prove ready. This means that a platform may need to deliver online assessment on an on-demand basis and to track individual student progress across standards and competencies. (more…)