10 things a Curriculum Management System (CMS) must do to best support your K-12 EdTech Solution.
November 14, 2022
You’ve built an award-winning curriculum. Teachers are delivering it effectively and students are making demonstrable gains. School Districts are putting in orders. So, what’s next on your development timeline? Whether you’ve created this curriculum as a digital offering or are adapting it from print to digital for the first time, you’ll want to be prepared to scale and meet the specific needs of different districts and states. You’ll need a Content Management System (CMS) at the heart of your offering. However, if you’re not looking for a CMS specific to education, you’re digging in the wrong place. Any CMS built for another industry, or no industry, will not meet the needs you have in developing and delivering your award-winning curriculum. Here’s why – a marketing website or e-commerce CMS is not designed to facilitate the learning process. A library CMS is not designed to build curriculum. Even if the CMS is generic enough to encourage customization, the required resources to support that customization – money, time, engineers, product developers, subject matter experts – can quickly add up. When looking for a CMS to take you to the next level, you may come across solutions marketed as Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS). LCMS are often built with a particular learning stage or educational focus in mind – Corporate Training, Licensure and Certification, Professional Development, Higher Education. If your product is in the K-12 curriculum development space, proceed with caution and expect to customize any solution that is not designed to support K-12 curriculum. Consider the following checklist when you are searching for a Curriculum Management System to best support your K-12 EdTech solution.
- Searchability – How easily and with what mechanisms can you find the content in your system? During the production process when 20,000 assets are being organized, tagged, aligned customized, and built into a curriculum path, how does the CMS support finding these assets?
- Storage – How much storage does the system give you for large files such as videos, high-resolution images, interactive lessons, and assessments? If you’re supporting multiple products within the system, you’ll need a storage locker that can grow as needed.
- Curriculum Standards – This is a big one for K-12. How does the system handle standards? How are the standards organized? Can standards (from providers like EdGate) be ingested or passed through from a supporting system to make purposeful alignments with content? Is standards alignment and mapping to individual pieces of content a core component of the system? What controls are in place for managing the presentation of standards and the data aligned to standards? Is there the ability to weight different standards, organize them based on context, and report on them in a myriad of ways?
- Structure – As I discussed in Avoiding the Frankensystem – content is not curriculum, but curriculum needs content. Curriculum is made up of 4 components – standards, instruction, assessment, and reporting. Does the system support all four of these components? How does the CMS or LCMS help your team perform the required tasks to transform learning content into standards-based curriculum for delivery into the classroom?
- School-Focused – A K-12 CMS needs to support the creation of interactive content for a K-12 audience, either for an in-person or virtual school. This means configuring delivery of content and data around school structures and within the technology ecosystems (SIS, LMS, etc.) already in place at the school.
- Surface Data – How does the system create and surface data from users and for use? This data should be able to tell the story of who is using the system, how they are interacting with the curriculum, the efficacy of the content, performance, usage, progress, and engagement data against content and the standards aligned to that content. Your K-12 CMS should be able to provide meaningful data for school officials, teachers, and students.
- Security – There are few industries with more security requirements than systems that can potentially interact with K-12 student information. Proof of CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA compliance are the minimum threshold for keeping data secure. To pass muster with state and district requirements, a cloud-based CMS that delivers content to students and creates data records for reporting must be continuously monitored to ensure compliance.
- Source Control – Nothing is more sacrosanct to an editor than version control, or source control. Curriculum and content creation is an iterative process, and one piece of content may serve many purposes and work in many contexts. Curriculum may be published and republished with updates to correct errata or continue build-outs. That process needs to make clear distinctions between versions of materials; what is published; what is live; and what’s yet to be published. Keeping source files and versioning processes front and center is critical. The power of flexibility is also key because change is inevitable.
- Streamline – A K–12 CMS should streamline or enhance the content creation process, either making it easier or more powerful. Any CMS can be retrofitted to handle necessary tasks in the process but a system that is already pre-built specifically for education content creation is a better place to start and easier to configure and tweak.
- Technical Standards – Last, but certainly not least, does the CMS meet the technical standards required to support the curriculum creation, management, and delivery processes? Can it support the robust needs of multiple editorial teams crafting interactive content? Can it communicate with other systems to enhance and provide toolsets, accessibility, and data and user integration and passback? Can it communicate with other systems – both pushing and pulling data? If the CMS handles delivery, can it handle millions of concurrent users and withstand the data and performance loads inherent to K-12 education usage patterns? Can the system scale as you grow and succeed?
A tall order to be sure. Picking a CMS leaves a lot to consider so if you’ve had trouble finding one to meet your K-12 content needs, that’s no surprise. The differences among a Content Management System, Learning Content Management System, and Curriculum Management System can be subtle, but taking the time to evaluate your internal editorial and technical operations, the unique needs of your educational customers and your growth goals will make the choice clearer. To learn more about C2C, visit content2classroom.com
-Dr. Johanna Wetmore
Dr. Johanna Wetmore is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of EvoText, an award-winning educational software development house. Dr. Wetmore is a former classroom teacher, curriculum developer, correlations specialist, K-12 product editor, and print and digital product developer for Pearson and Curriculum Associates (i-Ready).
Johanna holds a Doctorate in Education from Vanderbilt University, an Ed.M. from Boston University and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. She was named CEO of the Year – Startup, by the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) and EdTech Digest Leader Setting a Trend.