One of the reasons you put so much care into how you organize and articulate the student curriculum in Customized Learning, is because instead of tracking which courses a student has taken, schools track which learning targets and measurement topics students have mastered. The challenge, of course, with tracking courses, instead of mastery of content, is that the same curriculum may or may not be addressed in any two courses with the same name. Further, there is no guarantee that any two students in the same course (perhaps even the same section) have learned the same material. At best, tracking courses tracks what teachers “cover,” not what students learn.
But tracking courses taken and passed is much simpler than tracking student learning! Tracking what all your students have learned (and evidence of that mastery!) for all those learning targets is no trivial endeavor! With students working at different paces and awarding students “credit” based on what they demonstrate they know and can do (rather than by seat time or courses they have completed), educators need an efficient way to monitor and record student progress.
Schools that have been focused on personalized, standards-based, competency-based learning for a decade or longer started with paper-based systems of keeping track of student learning.
The Chugach School District in Alaska, won the Baldridge Award for their continuous improvement and Total Quality Management approach to improving learning in their district. They accomplished this by becoming a standards-based, rather than course-based system. At one point, they used (among other paper-based tools) a Student Assessment Binder (SAB), a tool the student and teacher used to monitor progress, store past assessments, and keep sample work. These were maintained on a weekly basis and were never out of the student's sight. I remember seeing pictures of students carrying around a 5″ binder as their evidence of learning!
The Minnesota New Country School is a public charter school where students earn credit by designing and implementing (with teacher support and guidance) standards-based projects. MNCS was recognized by the US Department of Education in 2006 for their work with parents and the community, and success with students who, in other contexts, tend to fall through the cracks. A 2003 profile of the school included links to some of the forms they used at the time (sorry, some of the links are no longer active), and a video of the work at the school included glimpses of those project proposal and learning tracking forms.
But online tools have made tracking student learning much easier. (I cannot imagine doing this work without a computer-based management system!!) The Chugach schools changed to an online system in 2002. The Minnesota New Country School now uses Project Foundry.
Part 2 of this post will focus what kinds of functions and features educators should look for in a learning progress management system.