Districts partner with ORC to pick best, cost-effective digital curriculum

As schools make the transition from printed materials to digital learning, educators must choose from a dizzying array of products.

The $8.4 million, five-year EDCITE: Evaluating Digital Content for Instructional and Teaching Excellence project will help Ohio districts find products that improve student achievement while providing more personalized, customized learning opportunities.

“Not only is it challenging to make those decisions but, given the number and variety of products on the market, it takes a completely different approach than a traditional curriculum adoption process,” said principal investigator Nicole Luthy, director of the Ohio Resource Center (ORC) in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University.

With the funding from the Ohio Department of Education Straight A Fund, Ohio State experts are engaging 162 teachers in five districts to evaluate free and fee-based digital learning materials for their classes.

The Westerville City Schools district leads the consortium that includes the South-Western City, Licking Heights Local, Fairbanks Local and Buckeye Valley Local districts. The districts are across Ohio, with two in Franklin County and one each in Licking, Union and Ashtabula counties.

“EDCITE will save Ohio districts from having to start from scratch while determining the best digital curriculums for their students. The project combines the technical and instructional expertise of the Ohio Resource Center with the insight and classroom experience of highly qualified educators across the state,” said Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology.

The teachers will use evaluation rubrics developed by ORC to vet more than 1,600 products in the first year. ORC will compile teacher reviews and implementation data in a searchable database available to all Ohio school districts.

Co-principal investigator Kui Xie, associate professor of learning technologies, and his team in the Research Laboratory for Digital Learning will lead the research and evaluation for

the project. Using both quantitative and qualitative approaches, the team will evaluate the impact of the EDCITE project. Dorinda Gallant, associate professor of quantitative research, evaluation and measurement, is leading the validation studies for the evaluation of digital content for the project.

“It is important to translate educational research and development created in laboratories into tangible products, tools and materials that can be made available to K-12 classrooms,” Xie said. “We are committed to working with K-12 students and teachers to transform the education system across the state of Ohio.”

Teachers helping teachers

With digital resources from the grant, Westerville teachers have the opportunity to take a more multidimensional approach to incorporating digital content into their lesson plans, said Stephanie M. Donofe, curriculum coordinator for K-12 technology. They may choose to use digital curriculum completely, partially or as extra online support.

 curriculum coordinator Dorinda Gallant


“As we move forward, we will look at both teacher-created and vendor-created materials,” Donofe said. EDCITE’s first focus will be on math and science. Westerville City Schools, in collaboration with Ohio State, will conduct online professional development for teachers in all five districts through a learning management system, Schoology.

The professional development will transform instruction by providing more materials and alternatives for teachers, which will give students access to the best form of instruction, Donofe said.

Teachers will help teachers, she added. “By sharing what we think, others won’t have to start from scratch.”

Ohio districts will save money because EDCITE allows them to make more effective selections and purchases while implementing digital curriculum.

As Luthy said, “As teachers review content, they will use materials in their classes. And as ORC builds the database, EDCITE will serve the entire state. So everyone will benefit from the reviews these teachers have done.”