<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1601661033380488&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

edX is part of 2U: the next era of online learning begins today! Visit our Help Center to read more about changes at edX.

Empowering Teachers and Students Around the World

As we wrote about in August, Davidson Next launched on July 22, to address the most challenging concepts in AP Calculus, Macroeconomics, and Physics. Developed in partnership by Davidson College, College Board, and edX, Davidson Next has received over 500 requests from AP instructors – primarily in the U.S. – to utilize our content in private instances.

Map of the United States with red dots in signifying the 560 requests for private instances of Davidson Next

  • 560 requests for private instances of Davidson Next content.
    • Red dots in the figure above are requests, and size is proportional to counts.
  • Requests in 47 States – {CA: 39, GA: 35, FL: 22, NC: 21, NJ: 27, NY: 23, TX: 47}
  • Roughly 25 requests from users outside the US.

AP teachers from private, public, charter and virtual schools alike continue to request private instances of the challenging concepts courses. Such a response demonstrates the universal desire for AP-aligned content in a digital format.

Scaling AP Instruction Nationally: Why teachers and MOOCs?

A recent article in The Atlantic titled “The (Accidental) Power of MOOCs” offers a new perspective in the wide debate about MOOCs’ disruptive role in education: the incredible benefit to educators. Recent research from MITx corroborates this notion – showing that teachers make up one of the largest groups of learners in MOOCs. In spring 2014, surveys of MITx MOOCs showed that on average 28% of enrollees had a teaching background.

If teachers increasingly rely on this new source of educational content, MOOCs could still “live up to the education-reform hype after all – but with an ironic twist” by helping teachers teach students. With many MOOC projects focusing only on the student, how can we also provide content and support for teachers?

Growing evidence indicates that combining online and face-to-face instruction to create a blended learning format is more effective for students’ learning – and can help expand the impact of specialized AP teachers – who are always in high demand.

The Davidson Next model is unique in that it was designed with both student and teacher in mind. Students can challenge themselves to master material, while teachers can use the modules to supplement their own instruction. It seems to offer an early solution to a question that has faced the edX community for some time now: how can the platform best facilitate teacher use in real classrooms?

Providing Private Instances for AP teachers: Custom Courses on edX (CCX)

Throughout the past year, Davidson Next has been exploring ways to further engage teachers by offering them private instances of Davidson Next AP content – or Small Private Online Course (SPOC) in edX speak. For the Davidson Next Pilot (described in the next section), we devised a tedious workflow that provided a SPOC with little to no control over course parameters.

Fortuitously, a new tool developed by MITx has changed the way teachers can utilize edX content: a Custom Course on edX, or “CCX” for short, allows teachers to create a copy of an existing edX course for private use with their own students. The private copy provides teachers access to course parameters such as course schedule (release/due dates), student enrollment, and viewing of student progress. This new tool marks a significant step toward scaled use of edX content in real classrooms.

As Davidson Next moves forward, we’d like to foster a richer community of practice – encouraging blended learning and sharing of ideas and best practices. To date, we have created a MOOC (Teaching with Davidson Next) and have set up various forums to support troubleshooting and shared dialogue.

Pilot Program Informs the Role of Teachers

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Davidson Next project team conducted a pilot program in 26 high schools—mostly in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district, as well as several schools in Durham, Greensboro, and Asheville, N.C., and Charleston, S.C.  Across the 3 topics, 31 AP teachers and 1,100 AP students vetted the Davidson Next materials and offered critical feedback on the modules.

The primary objective of the pilot was to improve our content using feedback from real AP teachers and students. However, the pilot also offered the Davidson Next team an opportunity to explore supporting teachers in their use of educational content and technology.

Broad lessons learned from the pilot:

  • Build strong relationships with teachers.
  • Practitioner feedback is vital to creating online learning technologies.
    • We used a number of technologies to facilitate feedback on our content. BugHerd was perhaps most effective – it allows users to markup directly within a browser.
  • Teachers reported having much more success with Davidson Next when they were more highly involved.
    • Teachers commented finding Davidson Next did not work well as a substitute instructor and that they had to be involved for students to achieve understanding.
  • Demand exists for professional development opportunities in AP around effective use of educational technology and blended learning.
    • Note, teachers received training on blended learning, but were not prescribed methods to use in the classes. Hence, teachers used content in a variety of ways: Preview, In-Class Supplement, Review, Outside-Class Supplement, Extra Credit.

Sample Positive Feedback from Teachers and Students*:

  • 74% of teachers said they would use DNext with their students in the following year.
  • Students generally felt that the interface (edX) and organization of content were easy to follow.

Sample Negative Feedback from Teachers and Students:

  • Most teachers complained about the edX gradebook and general lack of the ability to track student progress.
  • Students generally wished it were easier to track their own progress through the Davidson Next content.
  • Students and Teachers strongly disliked bugs and technical issues associated with piloting content.
    • An important point for anyone starting pilot work. Teachers and students largely expect polished products, and relationship building and expectation setting are vital.

The overall effectiveness of Davidson Next on AP exams scores and course grades is still actively being analyzed. A final Assessment Report will be released for public consumption in the coming months.

Content Feedback:

  • A primary objective of the pilot was to refine our content and have real users provide us a data-driven development cycle. However, updating content based on the feedback from over 30 teachers was a challenge.
  • Bugherd – an online markup service that allows users to leave comments directly on a web page through a browser plugin – dramatically improved our efficiency in categorizing and fixing content issues. See figure below.
A bar graph demonstrating counts by comment issue category

Figure 1: Categorized comments from BugHerd – an edit tracker that allows users to markup content directly in a web browser. In spring 2015, pilot teachers were asked to use BugHerd to report errors and provide comments on Davidson Next content. The x-axis categories represent teacher tags on the type of feedback and required editing.

If you are an AP teacher interested in using Davidson Next via custom course in your classroom, please contact the Davidson Next team: davidsonnext@davidson.edu.

*Feedback reported here is aimed at the broader edX community, and hence, does not include idiosyncratic feedback related to the running of the pilot. Davidson Next content was being developed during the Pilot, and Pilot participants were often using a Beta version of the content. The Assessment Report offers more details on our feedback cycles.