Three Steps (and One Free Tool) to Make Personalized Learning Financially Viable
K-12 schools and districts in the U.S. will spend $14 billion on education technology (edtech) in 2018, with an emphasis on resources that contribute to personalized learning.
For financial leaders in school districts, that’s a lot to process. The former school CFO in me can’t help but focus on how the growing commitment to personalized learning creates an even larger challenge for budget writers — how to strike a balance between cost-saving while ensuring resources support improved outcomes.
While the pros of personalized learning almost certainly outweigh the cons, it’s important that finance directors, CFOs and budget specialists understand how to make personalized learning financially viable, scalable and sustainable in their organizations.
On one hand, effective individualized support for students is proven to produce better outcomes — regardless of student factors like demographics, socioeconomic levels or prior achievement. On the other hand, a personalized learning approach can be labor and resource-intensive, requiring a great deal of preparation as administrators identify, procure and implement the right solutions. Teachers also need hours of PD and training to learn how to shift their tools, approach and classroom management to account for more individualized lessons.
Lea(R)n works with thousands of educators and their central offices around the country to help manage and maximize their edtech spending. With implementations across thousands of schools, we’ve found that school systems that follow these three steps give themselves the best chance of implementing a successful (and financially sound) personalized learning model that makes sense for students and educators alike.
Step 1: Organize solutions
The average school district uses 548 digital learning tools every month! 548! And recent data has shown that only about 9 percent of paid product licenses are used to full fidelity.
Besides confusion for teachers and administrators (who often refer to their edtech situation as “the wild west”) unorganized edtech leads to massive overlap and challenges in keeping track of product costs, usage or impact on student outcomes.
Creating a simple inventory that tracks basic product use and developing a secure, accessible product library so that every teacher can know which products are available doesn’t have to be difficult.
By implementing a comprehensive edtech management system, like LearnPlatform, you can bring control to the chaos in quick order. The cost savings of this first process will only be outdone by the reduction in headaches for teachers and district leaders.
Step 2: Streamline processes
If getting organized is the first step toward a viable personalized learning structure, streamlining processes is step two. Once an organization has a clear picture of what their edtech ecosystem looks like, they can start to understand and improve how it operates.
Streamlined processes optimize the efficiency of systems and policies to align investments more closely with organizational goals and increase understanding of their impact on outcomes. The same edtech management system districts use to organize their inventory can be used to create quicker and more efficient procurements.
Besides easing the process, this has also been shown to increase buyers’ purchasing power by over 20%. Other key processes, like running pilots, allowing teachers to request new products and helping IT teams vet products for compliance with student data privacy and other regulations are made simpler as well, saving everyone time and creating a more coordinated effort among all stakeholders to achieve their organization’s instructional and financial goals.
Step 3: Analyze outcomes
With inventory organized and processes streamlined, districts have more time to focus on what’s important — figuring out what’s working, for whom and in which situation. Administrators now have access to better data, and when they begin to analyze edtech engagement, practices and outcomes, they gain insights that maximize outcomes for both students and teachers.
For example, a district in Utah that used LearnPlatform found that a particular approach in math was helping English-language Learner (ELL) students more effectively than other methods — by being organized, having streamlined processes and analyzing their outcomes mid-year, they not only aligned their teaching practices with the findings and increased scores for students, they also influenced their budget and procurements as needed.
This is where effective personalized learning begins to scale to all students. Organizations that have structural supports for rapidly evaluating interventions, practices and digital tools can make quick-shift implementations to provide the best solutions available, while making practical, data-led budget and instructional decisions.
Personalize Learning @ Scale
Organizing, streamlining and analyzing your edtech inventory are the best ways to equitably scale personalized learning in your school or district in a financially viable way. You’ll save time and money, while maximizing the impact your digital solutions have on the individual needs of every student.
Through working with more than 2,500 schools across the country, Lea(R)n has created a framework of organizational development progression for public school systems looking for ways to increase their capacity for personalized learning.
Using the simple, free Personalize Learning @ Scale Self-Assessment™ alllows school systems to identify the four stages of organizational development (e.g. exploring, hacking, optimizing, personalizing), realize where they currently are in the process and understand what next steps should be taken to further their mission of delivering effective personalized learning at scale.
It’s important to remember that in the early stages of implementing a personalized learning approach, budget improvements may not be immediate, though organizations can consistently improve their edtech ROI and the outcomes they seek by building specific capacities (e.g., organizing, streamlining, analyzing) to expand equitable access to personalized learning.
To get started achieving this goal, you first have to understand where your organization falls on the personalized learning developmental progression. The Personalize Learning @ Scale Self-Assessment is available to any K-12 administrator and regardless of the processes in your school system, the assessment will provide clarity on the infrastructure, practices and systems needed to introduce more personalized learning across your organization.