Personalize Learning @ Scale: A Framework for Identifying (and Improving) EdTech Outcomes for All Students


Effective individualized academic support (i.e., personalized learning) can play a critical role in fostering better student outcomes, regardless of factors such as demographics, environment or prior achievement. While the impact of technology-enabled learning tools has continuously expanded in the U.S., the practice of pairing edtech with best teaching practices and established learning science has created a more efficient and effective means of scaling personalized learning to all students in an equitable manner.

For many in education, this is easier said than done. Budget constraints and traditional administrative policies or systems already in place often create barriers for purchasing, implementing and maintaining edtech tools, as well as generating data from rapid cycle evaluations on the effectiveness of those products. Without proper data, it’s practically impossible to successfully use digital learning tools to drive equitable personalized learning.

That’s why, through analyzed insights from more than 4,000 schools and districts across the country, we created the Personalize Learning @ Scale Framework™ — a quick, comprehensive and highly impactful measurement model that enables school systems to identify their current stage of edtech management and infrastructure to better understand ways of improving instructional outcomes for all students.

The framework uses a research methodology that outlines a consistent organizational development progression of edtech usage. This progression places schools and districts into one of four distinct stages of edtech organizational development: exploring, hacking, optimizing or personalizing. To increase outcomes systematically and equitably, local education agencies (LEAs) can move through each stage by better organizing, streamlining and analyzing all facets and processes of their edtech ecosystem.

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Let’s take a closer look at each of the four stages of edtech organizational development and the impact each stage can have on your organization’s instructional and financial goals.

Stage 1: Exploring

  • Yields an average ROI for edtech expenditures.

  • Digital tools have an unknown or low impact on student outcomes.

  • Looks like: a few individuals utilizing and excelling with tech-enabled learning, often with limited engagement across the organization.

Schools or districts that find themselves in the exploring stage are often in the early stages of their edtech growth. While a few educators pilot or use a handful of digital tools, the majority of teachers (and students) simply aren’t being exposed to the benefits of tech-enabled learning. To progress out of the exploring stage, LEAs must possess a willingness and commitment to increasing effective learning with technology across the entire school or district.

Stage 2: Hacking

  • Yields a low ROI on edtech expenditures.

  • Digital learning tools have a low overall impact on student outcomes.

  • Looks like: informal and unorganized use of edtech across the LEA, with few constructs in place to promote safety, efficiency and effectiveness. Often feels like the “Wild West.”

When LEAs operate in the hacking stage, edtech usage is often chaotic and unorganized, allowing very little knowledge of product efficacy or student outcomes to be consistently shared among educators and administrators. Progressing out of the hacking stage requires organization and communication. This often requires implementing an edtech system of record that monitors products in use and means consolidating existing edtech tools and interventions for teachers, administrators and students.

Stage 3: Optimizing

  • Yields an average ROI on edtech expenditures.

  • Digital learning tools have a discernable, positive impact on student outcomes.

  • Looks like: widespread use of educational technology across the LEA, with formal structure for operational processes on finding and purchasing new tools, vetting for safety, communicating and sharing knowledge.

To progress out of the optimizing stage means streamlining your systems, processes and policies to increase understanding of their impact on outcomes. Once you have a clear picture on the effect your investments are producing, you will finally be armed with the data and resources to effectively personalize learning for your students.  

Stage 4: Personalizing

  • Yields a high ROI on edtech expenditures.

  • Digital learning tools have a detectable and noticeable impact on student outcomes.

  • Looks like: efficacy data for edtech is used to shift implementation, budget and instructional decisions to drive the best possible student outcomes.

When LEAs are personalizing learning, structural supports are in place to rapidly evaluate and analyze edtech tools and best practices. Educators rely on these rapid-cycle evaluations to drive individual and organizational decisions for the best learning for all students.

Determining your ‘personalized learning’ stage

While student achievement, teacher capabilities and/or budget impact may increase slightly in the early stages, organizations can consistently increase their edtech ROI and the outcomes they seek by building specific capacities (e.g., organizing, streamlining and analyzing) to expand equitable access to personalized learning. To get started achieving this goal, you first have to understand where your organization lies on the personalized learning developmental progression.

We've created a quick 10-minute questionnaire, called the Personalize Learning @ Scale Self-Assessment based on a research methodology to help school systems identify their stage of edtech management and infrastructure to better understand how to drive instructional outcomes.

The 13-question self-assessment generates a special report based on your responses that provides:

  • Understanding of your current status and opportunities for advancement.

  • Applications for operational planning and resource allocations.

  • Clear areas and next steps for relevant, actionable improvement.

  • A pathway to personalizing learning at scale – specific to your organization’s needs and goals.

The Personalize Learning @ Scale Self-Assessment is available to help any K-12 administrator. The framework was designed to be completely agnostic to the practices, models or individualized learning models used by classroom or school practitioners. So 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.

To take the 10-minute PL@S Self-Assessment, just click here. Or, if you’ve already taken the assessment, be sure to subscribe to the LearnPlatform newsletter to receive new research, blog posts, more great resources like the PL@S Framework and much more!