Paul Montague, International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, Edmentum

Edmentum creates innovative, proven learning technology and partners with educators to ignite students’ potential. The EdTech company began as a research project at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign over 60 years ago. Alongside a fully Cognia and American International Accreditation Association of Schools and Colleges (AIAASC) accredited online school, Edmentum provides consulting, CPD, mentoring, digital curriculum, assessments for learning, supplementary tools, online tutors, and test preparation to schools. The company is in a unique position to support any school or education organization with their school improvement or digital needs. Edmentum is working with an increasing number of schools and partners within Latin America. In a conversation with K12 Digest, Paul Montague talks about the digitalization challenges in Latin America, how Edmentum is helping institutions in Latin America, and much more.

 

What is the status of the digitalization of education in Latin America? How is Edmentum catalyzing digital education in the region?

Edmentum is making headway in the Latin American market for digital curriculum, assessment, and K–12 virtual schooling and is supporting with catalyzing digital education in the region.

While schools are closed, working remotely, or in a hybrid setting, a recent report compiled by UNICEF estimates that nearly 114 million students are currently out of school due to inequity in education provision. While some will still receive some education, this is not the case for millions of children pre-pandemic and, looking to the future, post-pandemic.

There has been a division in equity and access to education over the last two years in Latin America, and Edmentum is partnering with schools across the region and providing a range of digital solutions to enable their students to access quality learning.

Edmentum is also helping effectuate digital education by evidencing that its programs can reduce the time to plan curriculum, lessons, or create content for the weekly lesson plan, support schools in becoming more competitive in the region, and reduce running costs for schools too. Furthermore, Edmentum is also competitively priced for the Latin American market, which is a contributing factor for helping to catalyze digital education in the region.

Edmentum has built great relationships with associations and international school groups across Latin America (including the Tri-Association, AMISA [formally AASSA], and LAHC). Typically, schools work with these associations to help them with professional development and third-party services. In light of this, we will be working with these to effectuate digital education further and showcase our programs to schools and how we can support them. We have delivered many thought leadership, consultative and product-focused webinars via the associations. We are also keen to show that we have experienced consultants who can tailor and build our solutions around a school’s goals and objectives.

By partnering with these organizations, Edmentum displays its credibility to schools and how we are a trusted provider of valuable, quality content, flexible services, and solutions. Whether schools are teaching to a U.K., U.S., or international curriculum, we can support national and international schools as they embark on their journey towards digital education.

What was the motive of Edmentum to venture into the Latin American market? How has the journey been so far?

Edmentum is an international education technology company that began as a research project at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign over 60 years ago. The original pioneers in computer-assisted instruction, Edmentum started as PLATO Learning and has developed since this time to add Study Island and EdOptions Academy, Exact Path, Courseware, and Calvert Learning to our range of learning programs. Edmentum has recently partnered with BASE Education (social-emotional learning curriculum) and FEV Tutor (24/7 tutors) and acquired Apex Learning.

Having such positive growth in the North American market, Edmentum established itself internationally around eight years ago by offering its solutions globally. Our initial growth for the international team was in the Middle East, then Asia, and now we have a team to operate within Latin America. It was not necessarily so much of a motive, more of a recognition that we can absolutely support schools in this region with their challenges. The journey itself has been both exciting and challenging at the same time. School enrollments are low, budgets are restricted, expatriates are returning home due to civil, and COVID-19 unrest, and the level of uncertainty remains high. However, Edmentum’s goal to support schools in Latin America has remained a top priority. We will continue to showcase our solutions, such as Exact Path and Courseware, and how they support schools and students in many situations.

Furthermore, the uncertainty of schools being open for on-site learning has led to confusion. Many have been left without the tools and resources to continue learning throughout the school year. Often, international schools in countries such as Argentina and Brazil have been open for business for a couple of weeks. Then, with little warning, the schools are instructed to close again, leaving schools hastening to operate in either a fully remote setting or a hybrid learning model. Edmentum can help with this uncertainty and support schools to future-proof their teaching and learning by providing digital curriculum and distance learning EdTech tools.

In addition to this, other challenges remain surrounding learning loss, bridging skill gaps, and filling teacher vacancies for certain subjects or year groups. There is also the challenge of supporting teachers and students, reducing stress and anxiety, and producing content during an already difficult time when working remotely. Edmentum programs are built to help with each of these challenges and support schools.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when educational institutions in the Latin American region moved to fully online courses, what were the issues Edmentum had to address? How did the company overcome those challenges?

Edmentum is an online learning company, so we were positioned perfectly to address any concerns schools have in the Latin America region and allow them to learn with digital curriculum addressed to their needs, while in a remote learning capacity.

Many schools were also experiencing a complete loss or reduction in testing, so struggles emerged in understanding their learning gaps. The learning gaps were apparent, but there was no way of bridging them. Edmentum, through Exact Path, automatically identified students who needed more support through its diagnostic assessment or by importing the schools’ last NWEA® MAP® Growth™ score data (Edmentum integrates with MAP data) into its system. From this, it then showed educators and students their learning gaps. Exact Path can identify gaps for students in math, language arts, and reading. It also supports local and international curricula and maximizes English proficiency, a subject that became a victim of the pandemic due to missed learning. Exact Path became a major bonus for schools in this way.

Furthermore, the program creates an automatic, individualized learning path for students to follow and address their gaps. This helps to mitigate learning loss for students and offer a new way of learning. Students have access to their learning path whenever and wherever they need, to help with 24/7 learning. This helped those educational institutions who needed access to a learning resource outside of school. Teachers could also always follow a student’s progress on Exact Path and support the student, when necessary, with reporting and analytics for administrators and teachers, bridging the gap between teacher and student when working remotely.

There were some other challenges that Edmentum faced. Some students didn’t have access to the devices they were used to using at school, and some also didn’t have broadband at home and had to use their parents’ mobile devices. While this was not ideal, it offered students a chance to complete some schooling, and Edmentum’s solutions functioned on most mobile devices, so they could use these in this instance.

Many educational institutions also had limited access to a digital curriculum and noticed that they had to implement a resource to address this. It became apparent to many international schools that Edmentum’s Study Island, Courseware, and Exact Path could help them with digital curriculum access. The programs could also support planning for the future, reduce teachers’ stress levels because the content was already written for them, save educators time by automatically marking content, and track students’ progress and identify any skill gaps. Hence, these were ideal for these institutions looking for reliable digital curriculum.

Staff shortages and schools closing their doors indefinitely were issues the region faced, and one which Edmentum also addressed. This meant that schools that were still operating had to change their business model. With our online school, Academy, we enabled them to do this and continue operating.

For instance, a school in Haiti recently enrolled five additional students but did not have the accreditation to offer high school diplomas or teachers to deliver the credits they needed. They had teachers but were already stretched. Edmentum offered full-time teachers to deliver live lessons for full-time students or just deliver a particular subject to students (which was helpful for schools who had lost their math or English teacher, for example).

Academy allows for growth within a school and can also help the school attract students from outside the local area to increase enrollment and revenue. Academy also offers curriculum extensions. For example, if a school isn’t offering a U.S. High School Diploma, it can start to, through Edmentum and our virtual schooling program. They simply enroll the student, and Edmentum arranges the rest.

What are the measures Edmentum took to manage drastically increased traffic? How did it help the users?

During this time, we saw unprecedented traffic and uptake. We have seen enrollments to our online school, Academy, increase by 462%, and our customers have increased by 157% on our Exact Path and Courseware products. Furthermore, there has been a 47% increase in customers on Study Island and, currently, 1.3 million content launches each day.

With this increase in traffic, Edmentum maximized its support efforts and ensured it could provide the same amount of support to each school before the pandemic. This helped users as the Edmentum team dealt with issues quickly, and schools could continue functioning without a drop in output. We are exceptionally proud of the service we deliver, and our implementation is seamless.

We understand how vital it is to make the implementation process simple, so when schools partner with us, our solutions can be implemented into a school’s practice quickly and impact attainment and growth immediately.

Along with the increase in support efforts, it was necessary for Edmentum to hire more consultants to support the business. This also allowed us to gain a better understanding of the Latin American market in more detail and offer a more tailored service to the schools we work with globally.

How is Edmentum helping institutions in Latin America to improve the quality of content in these challenging times?

They provide a sound digital curriculum to enable their students to achieve their potential and goals and support them with any learning gaps.

Edmentum can provide over 6,000 resources to schools through EducationCity, 12 rigorous technology-enhanced item types to support assessment preparation through Study Island, and over 600 courses to choose from in various subjects through its online school, Academy. Edmentum is also supported with various accreditations such as Academy being Cognia accredited and utilizes NWEA MAP Growth assessment data to provide a sound digital learning experience on Exact Path. Fully mapped to the U.K. and U.S. curricula, Edmentum can provide schools with quality content and support with improving their teaching and learning.

All resources are accessible anytime and anywhere so students can learn whenever and wherever they need to. This offers flexibility between home and school learning and enables schools to operate in the way they want to.

Tell us about the products and services Edmentum offers now for its clients in the Latin American region. How does the company intend to stand out from the crowd?

Edmentum offers several unique solutions to schools in Latin America to help them address their needs.

Exact Path is a K–12 individualized learning solution that makes learning personal. It uses diagnostic assessment data and personalized instruction. Students who use Exact Path are proven to demonstrate positive, statistically significant growth. Exact Path is unique in that it is perfect for helping close skill gaps, accelerating learning and individualizing instruction with effective competency-based learning paths.

Courseware offers standards-aligned course expansion for 6–12 students. Schools that implement Courseware in their settings report an increased student graduation rate. Courseware is unique in that it has over 600 courses and can help engage learners with online courses taught by a teacher of record. Students can earn credit from anywhere, anytime, and track progress with reporting and pacing tools.

Academy supports K–12 students and allows for the expansion of school capacity with Cognia accredited courses and teachers. The program offers over 600 courses, and it stands out as a notable learning platform as students enrolled in these courses maintained a 92% passing rate in 2019. With Academy, you can offer courses taught by certified virtual teachers, extend alternative pathways to graduation for struggling students, and expand options to retain student enrollments.

Study Island, for K–12 students, improves mastery and retention by offering practice items with flexible modes to improve proficiency, especially in high-priority areas. There are 600,000+ items built to U.S. state standards that offer game modes for a fun learning environment, test modes, and much more. No matter where learning takes place, Study Island ensures that students are meeting grade-level expectations and mastering essential standards.

EducationCity personalizes learning for K–6 students by linking assessment data with engaging curriculum content to support your students’ growth. Teachers and students can view progress and performance easily. EducationCity also supports inquiry-based learning aiding higher-order thinking skills.

How has the performance of Edmentum been in the last few years? What has been the progress of the business in the Latin American region?

Schools in the Latin American region have subscribed to our products and have been able to offer teaching and learning in a different capacity than before. We have created opportunities in schools for them to grow and expand and offer U.S. High School Diplomas to students who may not be able to access a U.S. style of education.

With Academy, we have also expanded course opportunities in schools, helping schools to address staff shortages, and save time creating courses and resources. Therefore, our performance is and continues to be incredibly positive, with an increasing number of schools recognizing our benefits. We have certainly seen more interest than ever before in the Latin American territory. Educators have been expressing much more interest in understanding our products and services in more detail while planning for the upcoming school year.

We have listened to schools across Latin America and have responded by revising our pricing model to fit more with the market. This pricing revision has come from acknowledging that some schools have low enrollments, reduced fees, and increased health and safety costs, meaning children have had to enter the public school space. However, Edmentum supports all schools and has also offered consortium pricing purchases for school groups and associations to help them bulk buy and achieve a much lower price for the solutions. We are a flexible company that wants to help students and educators. We would prompt any school needing help to reach out as we are always looking for partners to complete free pilots and offer feedback regarding how they use the products and their benefits.

Post-COVID-19, what are the opportunities Edmentum sees in the Latin American K12 education market?

In a post-COVID-19 world, Edmentum will be taking the opportunity to showcase its virtual learning school, Academy, and its K–12 personalized learning program, Exact Path, to schools in Latin America.

Academy will be able to help schools to broaden and expand their curriculum offering by providing access to courses that a school’s teachers may not deliver. Academy also provides students with learning towards a U.S. High School Diploma, and Exact Path will be ideal for filling in any learning gaps. Both solutions will also mean students have the opportunity to access digital content.

We also believe there is an opportunity for schools to partner with the right company and take advantage of their consultation services. Edmentum’s implementation services can help schools achieve their goals.

Tell us about the plans for Edmentum in the Latin American region. What are the short-term and long-term goals?

In the short term, we will be speaking to schools and institutions to make them aware of how Edmentum’s digital solutions can help them meet their goals. We wish to partner with schools and offer our digital solutions to improve the quality of teaching and learning that is taking place and ignite each student’s potential. We want to highlight the benefits of using digital solutions along with introducing people to the Edmentum brand, which has been established for over 60 years.

In the long term, we will strive to ensure every child reaches their potential and enable as many students as possible to gain the education they deserve, whether that is on-site, remotely, or in a hybrid setting. The goal is to maximize teaching and learning with the usage of our solutions and aim to mitigate learning loss.

What is your advice to the educational institutions in Latin America who are looking for a technology partner? 

Allow time to understand and develop a relationship with the technology partner and evaluate how they can benefit your organization. It is worth assessing everyone you speak to and being honest about your intentions and what you need so the company can tailor conversations and solutions to you. I would also recommend keeping a line of communication open and letting the partner know if you have moved in a different direction – their reaction will tell you a lot about the business you are partnering with.

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About Paul Montague, International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager

Paul Montague, Edmentum’s International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, has worked in the education field for 20 years and has significant teaching and learning, digital curriculum, content, assessment, and social-emotional learning and wellbeing experience. His roles have included: Geography Teacher, School Improvement Manager, Advisor, Project Examiner, Government Advisor, Curriculum Development Manager (Pearson), International Consultant for The Middle East (GL Education), and Digital Curriculum and Learning Manager for Edmentum. In his current role with Edmentum, he partners with and supports schools worldwide as they introduce a range of Edmentum’s flexible digital curriculum and learning solutions.

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