Digital courseware and the search for simple learning design

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Digital courseware is a space that’s still quite hard to define. The Courseware-in-context (CWiC) framework describes it as “instructional content that is scoped and sequenced to support delivery of an entire course through purpose-built software. It includes assessment to inform personalisation of instruction and is equipped for adoption across a range of institutional types and learning environments.”

Stripping back all the ‘features’, in the Global EdTech Landscape, we defined ‘Digital Courseware’ as tools to create and publish digital course materials.

We think of what Computer Aided Design (CAD) did for engineering and more recently companies like Canva are doing for design;

Digital Courseware on the Global EdTech Landscape 3.0

However, the search continues for amazingly simple learning design software.

Cluster Overlap. As an enabling tool, digital courseware can be used to deliver math, science, literacy, language, and testing and assessment materials. Courseware providers often supply their own content, becoming MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Many have grown to include Learning Management System (LMS) functionality and, with their orientation around learning objects, promise better learner outcomes through personalisation and adaptability.

Adaptive technology is the order of the day. Highly effective digital learning objects remain challenging to create but bring with them incredible opportunities for re-use and to capture feedback for either self-improvement or personalisation, something not possible with a traditional textbook. Most digital courseware providers offer adaptive tools, including Knewton, which licenses its technology to publishers; BenchPrep, which focuses on adaptive test prep materials; and Smart Sparrow, which provides course-building tools and assistance for instructors.

Priority area for educational publishers. Publishers, keen to use digital courseware to deliver their own content, are pushing into this area via in-house product development, licensing technology from third-party providers, and M&A. These strategies continue to evolve — recently, Pearson announced it would wind back its use of Knewton’s technology in favour of internal development.

An excerpt from the Courseware in Context Product Primer, which aims to help educators make better decisions about the use of digital courseware.

Case study: Acrobatiq

Acrobatiq is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) package that allows educators to design courses that are online, interactive, and adaptive; draw upon a range of built-in content; and review course data to identify struggling students. Originally born from research at Carnegie Mellon University, Acrobatiq is a finalist in the Gates Foundation’s challenge for the development of next-generation digital courseware.

For further insights across the education lifecycle, download your free copy of the Global EdTech Landscape 3.0.