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*This article, authored by Director of Content Standards and co-chair of the EPUB 3 Community Group, Rachel Comeford,

was originally posted to epubsecrets, but we asked for permission to re-post it here. 

 

I have a confession: I have never taken a class in accessibility; I have no professional certification for creating, remediating, or testing content; and I am not an expert in using assistive technology. Why would anyone ask me to write about being an accessibility advocate?

 

Because I am one. By accident.

 

Many years ago, I received a customer request to revise an activity and make it JAWS compatible. Here were my next steps:

  1. Search for “JAWS”
  2. Spend 20 minutes reading about Roy Scheider, star of the 1975 classic Jaws
  3. Remember I’m at work
  4. Search for “JAWS compatibility”
  5. Search for “Screen Reader”
  6. Ask a colleague how to make an activity accessible
  7. Have colleague tell me to add closed captioning
  8. Realize I might be missing something

 

After a career focusing on getting students better content and making sure that instructors get the best materials for their classrooms it was unnerving to discover that I was missing a large (and growing) portion of my audience. What was more unnerving was realizing how many of my peers and colleagues were also unaware.

 

We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

 

Teaching myself how to approach accessibility was, and still is, challenging. The more I learn, the more I realize, to quote the other Jaws, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Accessibility is more than a checklist; as an advocate, I am responsible for embedding an understanding of accessibility into company culture, communicating clearly the needs of our whole audience, and generating enthusiasm for finding and implementing more accessible solutions. In working towards these goals, I have learned quite a bit but to get started, these are the 5 rules that I had accept and embrace.

  • Acknowledge that accessibility isn’t an afterthought.
    Picking through design and code that has been developed with speed to market in mind in order to make it accessible isn’t impossible, but it is time consuming, expensive, and, honestly, really annoying. It’s like extricating pieces of onion from a salad… there is always another one in there waiting to ruin your breath for the rest of the day.Accessibility shouldn’t be addressed after a product has been built any more than it should be scheduled as the last sprint in order to reach MVP. It should be a part of the development plan from the beginning, starting with researching UX/UI for your product with assistive technology (AT) users.

 

  • Educate yourself in order to educate others.
    This is obvious, right? Research the standards, familiarize yourself with the laws, and have (and be able to communicate with others) a basic definition of accessibility. As an advocate though, throwing around key terms is not enough. Accessibility is a conversation between learners, organizations that represent them, legal entities, software developers, and publishers among others. Advocates should be able to provide clarity where others might muddle ideas.For example, much like when my mother taught me about the difference between a coat and a jacket (which, to be honest, I still struggle with), I am going to ask you to stop using WCAGand 508 WCAG is a standard set by the World Wide Web Consortium. Section 508 is an element of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are more that you should familiarize yourself with both in the standards area (PDF/UA for example) and the legal area (such as IDEA). (As a side note: For legal updates in plain language, I’m a big fan of Lainey Feingold’s site.)

 

  • Learn from mistakes that everyone, including you, has made.
    Don’t be that guy on Tinder who posts selfies with tigersand then wonders why no one swipes right. (Same goes for shirtless bathroom/gym selfies in case you’re working on that profile right now. Hard no.) Many other people have been down this road before, looking for  accessibility solutions in all the wrong places.
    If you’re looking for non-Tinder related examples:
    Some will argue that the population this impacts is too small. In 2016 there was a 55 percent increase in the number of digital accessibility complaints filed with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) from 2015. There were about 6,000 accessibility complaints overall in 2016. The impact you are making with accessible products is huge, from the number of people using the product to the money you are going to save on legal fees.
    Some will offer an accessible version/a tutor/an alternate product for students with disabilities. Ask them this: You’re teaching a class on the 5th floor of a walkup building. You have 1 student in a wheelchair. Do you send that student to a different classroom to just read the textbook? Ask them to sit on the lawn while you lecture really loudly near the window? There won’t always be a solution as simple as a ramp and an elevator (see number 5), but it’s your job as an advocate to push for a single, born-accessible solution whenever it is possible.I tested this on a screen reader with my eyes closed, so I know it’s accessible. To clarify, what you have done is helped get a little further down the accessible development path but what you have NOT done is tested the usability of a product for AT users.

 

Become an expert in saying “I don’t know.”

 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    Better yet, become an expert in saying “I don’t know.” There’s an art to being a beginner, and, when it comes to accessibility, expertise is hard-earned. You don’t need to have an immediate answer to every question, but what you do need is to build a network of relationships with other people asking the same questions. Check out the work that Benetechdoes, talk to PhET about STEM accessibility, and learn from real life experiences.

 

  • Accept that there isn’t always a “right” answer.
    This is the hardest part, in my opinion. I like being right, and like it even more when there is a clearly defined “wrong,” but accessibility doesn’t work that way. AT works differently with different operating systems or browsers. Some problems don’t have a universal solution yet. Others have a solution for some audiences and not others. New solutions for one group of users may introduce new problems for other groups. It’s a frustrating process and your role is to help the team get to the best available answer and then try to solve for the outliers.

 

Accessibility advocacy is not about being the sole source of expert knowledge or achieving fame and fortune (although I continue to dream about the fortune part). What it really does is bring you back to the basics: don’t shrink away from a challenge, don’t fall back on old (often offensive) tropes, and stop telling everyone on Tinder that you’re looking for a “partner in crime.” Be an accessibility advocate because you care about other people. Succeed as an accessibility advocate because you want other people to be successful.

 

 

BIO As the Director of Content Standards at Macmillan Learning, Rachel Comeford helps to implement and maintain industry and internal standards in content, platforms, and processes. As the co-chair of the w3c Publishing Community Group and participant in accessibility working groups at IMS GlobalBISG, and AMAC she asks lots of annoying questions, silently judges Tinder profiles, and is always looking for a bigger boat.

This article was co-authored with design researcher, Allison Abbott and originally published on medium.com. We were then invited to share it here on Macmillan News.  

 

Human-centered design — and the research that goes along with it — is an ambiguous world. The nuances of humanity are messy and hard to pin down; so how can we approach our work to ensure that we’re driving to solid product decisions? What can we do to ensure that we’re designing unique, transformational, and differentiated solutions that fit seamlessly into people’s lives? After having been around the block with excellent, mediocre, and sometimes flat-out bad teams, we realized there were two critical mindsets that made all the difference.

Mindset 1: Look for inspiration, not proof

We’re gonna go out on a limb here and say it: design research isn’t about finding proof — it’s about finding inspiration.

 

Don’t get us wrong. We absolutely realize there is so much value in the confidence we gain by seeing numbers at scale and the comfort we feel in statistical significance. But… the small nuances, the fascinating details, and the meaty stories are impossible to capture with hard data alone. Qualitative research can unlock a whole world of inspiration to draw from. It can open up a team’s eyes and hearts to things they may not have anticipated or even thought about before.

 

Unfortunately, in most organizations, there is a very different mentality. “Good research” is quantitative, metric-driven, and comes from survey-like methods with a goal of demonstrating significance and truth at scale. We get it — business is about profit, and that profit is better predicted when you have confidence in numbers. The business wants to know how much money is riding on any product decision you make.

 

Because of this, many design researchers feel pressure to prove their qualitative insights with hard data; but, we believe that such a goal misses the point. Running after numbers is not only distracting and time-consuming, but it causes design researchers to set aside unique and inspiring discoveries as merely anecdotal, just because they aren’t quantifiable (e.g. perspectives from extreme users). It also encourages the widely accepted notion that qualitative insights aren’t valuable until they are proven. Jon Kolko tells us that “an insight is a provocative statement of truth about human behavior that may be wrong.” Whether the “insight” is right or wrong, proven or unproven, is kind of beside the point, we think. The insight serves to provide the team the inspiration it needs to design something transformational.

 

Embrace the way your research makes you feel, not just what the numbers tell you. Give yourself permission to look for interesting anecdotal stories, even if they are “edge cases.” Not all of the people who ultimately use your product will have the same story; but they all may share a latent need hidden in the few stories that inspire you.

 

Caption: Your insights should lead you to new, transformational ideas along with a set of well-informed hypotheses that should serve as the metrics you’ll measure out in the world, at scale.

Caption: Your insights should lead you to new, transformational ideas along with a set of well-informed hypotheses that should serve as the metrics you’ll measure out in the world, at scale.

 

 

Mindset 2: Look beyond the thing you’re designing

 

The worst misstep one can make in design is to solve the wrong problem.

John Carroll

We would bet that most of the design research happening right now is focused on answering the question: How do we design this [pre-determined] idea? More often than not, this idea is a half-baked one, coming from an exec somewhere from above (sorry guys, it’s the truth). It’s probably focused on a blatant business need and lacks the depth of understanding of the ecosystem surrounding the problem.

 

If the design process starts here, a team’s circle of influence will be quite small. Their goals will be decided and they’ll take a reactionary approach, asking: What should this look and feel like? Is it usable? Does this design meet pre-existing requirements and constraints?

 

The design process, as a result, ends up being about how well they are designing the idea that was given to them — no matter how good or bad it was to start. While this may increase speed-to-market and bypass challenging discussions amongst the team and stakeholders, it isn’t so effective at answering bigger, more impactful questions like:

 

Is this the right idea to be pursuing in the first place?

What’s the real problem here?

What is the impact on people’s lives?

Who needs it, anyway?

 

The reality is, what you’re designing is going to be used in a messy, complicated world and it’s going to do something larger than itself. If you’re focused on glorifying and perfecting the idea alone, you’ll miss out on a wider understanding of what it is and could be. Good design research is proactive, not reactive. It shouldn’t focus solely on usability or validating the one idea, but instead on exploring the full range of possibilities to land on the best idea.

 

Always seek a way to be holistic and strategic. Gracefully redirect and realign the conversation. Dance between the who, what, why, and how. Have an open-minded skepticism about what is and what could be in the world. And strive to understand the problem before there’s even the first idea on the table.

 

We get that this is hard to do.

It is so deeply ingrained in our business culture to put anything with the name of “research” into a scientific box: proof-oriented, spreadsheet-friendly, and something that can be successfully done behind the screen of a computer. What we’re proposing here goes squarely against traditional business instinct. Adopting these mindsets can be exhausting and uncomfortable, and will probably upset some people once in a while.

But we think you should do it anyway.

It’s better for business. Think about how much crap is out there now because A) nobody took the time to get outside their own heads to understand the people they’re designing for, and B) they anchored to the most obvious pet project solution that customers don’t actually want or care about. Finding the solutions that are going to truly resonate will get you far ahead of your competition.

 

It’s better for your career. The results of your work will be much more compelling in your portfolio. I mean, which of these sounds better?

 

Our stakeholders told us that we’d get more market share if we built X feature, so we did this by…

 

…or…

 

We were inspired by this deeply painful problem and we leveraged our business’s technology to creatively solve it by…

 

Finally, it’s just more interesting this way. Design research is just as much art as it is science — in fact, we think that’s why we love it so much. With these mindsets, your work becomes a philosophical game. You and your team are like investigators, digging through human stories to solve the mystery and unlock the meaning behind it all. At this point, taking action is so much more fun.

 

Designer Sarah Calandro and Design Researcher Allison Abbott spent many a weekend morning (over Google Hangouts, coffee, and some welcome interruptions from two playful pups) hashing out what they think makes design research “good.” This is where they landed.

SXSWedu, the annual education conference that brings together educators, administrators, entrepreneurs, journalists, and policy makers, kicked off voting for session proposals today. The SXSWedu program centers around engaging talks from across the education spectrum, and is built (in part) with community votes.
 
This year, Macmillan Learning submitted three proposals. And we need your help voting for our proposals!
 
 
Voting is easy. Simply click the links above and give our sessions a 'thumbs up.' Note: you must create a SXSWedu profile to vote; creating a profile takes 2-3 minutes.
 
Voting is open from August 7th-25th. Vote today! Tell a Friend!

In honor of National Intern Day on Thursday, July 27th, Macmillan Learning CEO Ken Michaels took an hour out of his day to talk to Macmillan interns across the country at one of the interns’ weekly Lunch & Learn meetings. The Lunch & Learn program has been ongoing throughout the summer, and gives participants the chance to meet with senior management to discuss their professional journeys and roles within Macmillan Learning. Thursday’s Lunch & Learn was held in the New York office, with interns from Boston, Austin, Los Altos, and Plymouth conferencing in via phone and WebEx.  

 

For Ken’s Lunch & Learn, the main focus was on personal and career development. Quotable snippets of advice kept interns’ pens busy as Ken began by sharing his own journey, starting with his days delivering newspapers and moving forward to an overview of how his career has progressed since. Ken then opened the floor up to questions, jokingly offering to fill the time with anecdotes if no one spoke up.

 

Some of the questions asked included what a day in the life looks like, what’s currently on Ken’s reading list (he recommended The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt), and how to maintain a work/life balance. Michaels placed an emphasis on two major topics: Curiosity and improvement. He urged interns never to lose their sense of curiosity, to constantly dig into the who, what, when, where, why, and how of every assignment. According to Michaels, it is not enough just to do the task; you have to know the story behind the task, because only then will you truly be able to outpace expectation. He stressed that a job is only as boring as you allow it to be, and counseled interns to be constantly asking the question “What value am I adding?”

 

He also challenged interns to continuously seek ways to improve both themselves and their environment. Every intern walked away from the Lunch & Learn with both a piece of advice in one hand and a homework assignment in the other. The advice? “If you have to complain, turn it into a suggestion or a solution.” Likewise, the homework assignment was a simple yet somewhat daunting task for the end of the summer - to come up with one element of our current work environment that could be improved upon and send it in, preferably with a suggestion on how to improve it.


It was refreshing to benefit from the advice of a leader without having to frantically take notes on the minutiae of the way a business is run or the way a product is developed, particularly as many interns do not yet know what they want to do with their lives. Ken’s message during the Lunch & Learn emphasized that we will never know where our careers may lead, and that it doesn’t matter where we start out so long as we actually do something once we start. I believe I speak for all interns when I say that we walked out of that room with a more well-rounded perspective on career development than when we walked in.  It was like having a long talk with a good friend over coffee -- positive, lighthearted, and full of advice that, whether you know it yet or not, will help launch you into the next stages of your life.

 

New collaboration provides enhanced digital solutions

for a broader population of students

 

July 25, 2017.  Raleigh, NC.   Today Macmillan Learning, a premier educational content and digital solutions company, and VitalSource Technologies LLC®, the world leader in building, enhancing and delivering digital course materials, announced a new collaboration to provide students with greater access and an improved learning experience with Macmillan Learning’s digital products.

 

“At Macmillan Learning, we are working every day to create innovative solutions,” said Chief Operations Officer Ken Brooks. “Working with the VitalSource is enabling us to immediately broaden our reach. We will be able to provide more accessible digital solutions for all learners, as well as new solutions for the K12 market.”

 

Using VitalSource’s LearnKit application program interfaces (APIs), Macmillan Learning will offer content at a broader scale with mobile, responsive and accessible options for all learners, while maintaining the flexibility to meet the needs of today’s faculty and administrators.

 

“Macmillan has a long history of creating and curating great content and platforms,” said VitalSource Chief Operating Officer Pep Carrera. “While they have done a fantastic job with their digital offerings, this collaboration allows them to accelerate their efforts, while banking on VitalSource’s nearly 20 years of experience optimizing and delivering digital content to millions of students.”

 

“Customization for our customers is critical in today’s market as educators and learners strive for more personalized pathways,” said Brooks. “With this collaboration, we will be able to take individual slices of content to customize and integrate with pedagogical tools and assessment in new ways.”

 

##

 

About Macmillan Learning

Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world's best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visit our website or see us on Facebook, Twitter, or join our Macmillan Community

 

About VitalSource | www.vitalsource.com

VitalSource Technologies LLC, part of Ingram Content Group LLC, is improving the learning experience by making it easier to create and deliver effective and affordable content. The preferred choice among educational institutions and companies for digital learning materials, VitalSource® helps over 1,000 educational content providers create and deliver seamless interactive learning experiences through its exclusive Bookshelf® platform to millions of learners at 7,000 institutions. Bookshelf users opened more than 20 million digital textbooks last year and read more than 2.4 billion pages.

 

Tonight at 5pm PT in San Francisco, the winners for the 2017 CODiE Awards will be announced. The CODiE Awards are a peer-recognized program founded in 1986 that recognizes excellence in educational information, technology and software development. This year, Macmillan Learning is thrilled to have three products nominated for the awards: Sapling, Intellus, and FlipIt.

 

For Best Instructional Solution - which recognizes “the best instructional solution for science and health curricula and content for students in the PK-12 or higher education market” - the CODiE Awards nominated Sapling. CEO Ken Michaels describes the product as “probably the deepest most prominent, research-oriented way of prompting learning and learning pathways.”

 

For Best Social Sciences or Social Studies Instructional Solution, which recognizes excellence in social sciences content, CODiE nominated FlipIt. View a brief demo of this tool and review the research that supports FlipIt here.

 

And finally, for Best Digital Aggregation and Sharing Solution, Intellus has been nominated as of one of “the best digital platform[s] for educators to gather, describe, and share resources of all online sources and formats.”

 

All of these technologies serve as examples of how Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. We are delighted and honored to have our products nominated. See this link to watch the livestream of the ceremony tonight, and keep your fingers crossed! And whatever the outcome, it continues to be a privilege to provide today's students and educators with the tools to succeed!

 

About Macmillan Learning:

Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visithttp://www.macmillanlearning.com or see us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN or join our Macmillan Community.

Follett’s 1,200 campus stores will offer students more affordable choices for Macmillan content to drive student preparedness and course success

 

New York, NY, July 19, 2017.   Macmillan Learning, a premier educational content and digital solutions company, today announced a new partnership with Follett Higher Education to provide more affordable rental options of popular Macmillan Learning solutions. Beginning this fall, some of Macmillan Learning’s popular textbooks and digital solutions will be available for consignment rental at more than 1,200 nationwide campus stores managed by Follett. This content, which will only be available to students to rent, will deliver significant savings for students compared with most rental pricing currently available or compared to the cost of purchasing a new textbook.  This partnership also enables Follett stores to offer students print plus digital bundles at substantially lower rental prices than previously possible.

 

Commenting on the partnership, Macmillan Learning CEO, Ken Michaels stated, “Affordability is a significant concern for students. At Macmillan Learning, we are evaluating everything we do to ensure we can provide students with access to the most affordable options for high quality course materials. This partnership with Follett enables us to offer lower priced options for content through all of their campus stores.”

 

Macmillan Learning's consignment rental program with Follett will not only provide students with direct savings, but also give them an option for continued  access to the digital content after the rental period ends at a substantially reduced price.

 

“Making college education more affordable and accessible to students by providing the widest range of course material options is our core mission at Follett, which is why we are pleased to offer Macmillan rentals at our campus stores,” said Clay Wahl, President of Follett Higher Education. “This partnership expands the number of physical and digital rental options available through Follett, the best source for students looking for course material solutions that match their individual learning and financial needs.”

 

“Central to Macmillan’s mission of improving lives through learning is to ensure that students can access the materials that they need to thrive,” said Mr. Michaels. “Until now, students have generally been forced to choose between inexpensive print rentals or grade-enhancing digital bundles. And that’s a shame because student’s success requires  a variety of resources and solutions to maximize learning. We’re pleased to launch this partnership with Follett to combine the cost savings of print rental with the learning outcome advantages of digital study aids and supplements.”

Both companies intend to expand this rental-only program and partnership in coming months. To learn more about all of Macmillan Learning’s affordable content and digital solutions, visit macmillanlearning.com. To learn more about Follett, visit http://www.follett.com.

 

About Macmillan Learning:

 

Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visit http://www.macmillanlearning.com or see us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN or join our Macmillan Community.

 

 

About Follett Corporation:

For more than 140 years, Follett has been a trusted partner to preK-12 schools, colleges and campus stores, taking care of the critical details that make it easier for schools to run, teachers to teach, students to learn and fans to celebrate. A leading provider of education technology, services and physical and digital content, Follett currently works with 70,000 schools and operates more than 1,250 local campus stores and 1,600 virtual stores. With the 2016 acquisition of Baker & Taylor, LLC, Follett's reach also extends into the public library and global retail markets. Today Follett Corporation is the world's largest single source of course materials, books, entertainment products, digital content and multi-media for libraries, schools and retailers. To learn more visit www.follett.com.

Company offers new options for students to access learning materials

 

New York, NY, July 17, 2017

 

It goes without saying that affordability is a significant concern for students. As such, at Macmillan Learning, we are evaluating everything we do to ensure we can provide students with the most affordable options for course materials. We are pleased to announce a number of new initiatives geared towards offering more affordable and flexible learning solutions for students.

 

Lower eBook Prices

 

Beginning in fall 2017, we are reducing the cost of most of our eBook titles. By opting to use an eBook, students will gain immediate access to course materials, which studies have shown enhance outcomes. eBooks represent the most affordable way to access course content. On average, the cost of a Macmillan Learning eBook will now be less than $50, making one of our most affordable options even more affordable.

 

“Central to Macmillan’s mission of improving lives through learning is to ensure that students can access the materials that they need to thrive,” said CEO, Ken Michaels. “Rather than offer lip-service to calls for more affordable learning materials, we’re proud to take action to provide students with the resources necessary to maximize learning.”

 

New Student Store

 

This summer, we are launching a new way to purchase course materials via the Macmillan Learning Student Store. The Student Store will be the 1-stop-shop for all materials, including print and digital purchases, as well as print rentals. Unlike other online retailers, the Macmillan Learning Student Store will offer ALL formats and varieties of content, as well as a robust mix of content combinations. By bundling printed texts, loose-leaf materials, as well as digital learning tools, students will have maximum flexibility to make the choices that make most sense for their learning needs. The Student Store is set to launch in time for the back-to-school season. Visit macmillanlearning.com for more information.

 

Rental Options

 

Increasingly students are opting to rent their course materials rather than buy. In fact, many studies indicate that rental is the preferred method of purchase for today’s students. While the rental of learning materials is not a new phenomenon, we are pleased to offer rental directly on the Macmillan Learning Student Store beginning this fall. We will offer rental of standalone course materials, as well as attractively-priced rental packages with our many digital learning solutions.

 

Students who rent from the Student Store are always guaranteed a new copy of the book with each rental and an unused digital access code.  As such, students can always be certain that the digital supplements and study tools are included with each rental. To learn more about the Macmillan Learning Rental Program, visit macmillanlearning.com.



Partnerships

 

A critical component of offering the highest-quality learning materials at the most attractive prices is partnering with key players in the education industry. We recently announced our partnership with market-leading eBook provider, Vital Source, in which we will offer mobile, responsive, and accessible digital tools for all learners. On Wednesday, July 19th, we announced a partnership with Follett Corporation to offer affordable learning materials at Follett's 1200 campus bookstores. Read more here.

 

Stay tuned for more partnership announcements! You can follow news about Macmillan Learning here.

 

About Macmillan Learning:

 

Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visit http://www.macmillanlearning.com or see us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN or join our Macmillan Community.

I come from a family of instructors. I believe there are few richer ways to contribute to the world than to help students to achieve their potential.

 

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had a career that’s taken me all around the US, and all over the world - to meet all kinds of students and to witness passionate instructors, novel instructional techniques, and effective educational technologies in action. I’m always inspired by what I learn, and continually energized to create better ways to help students and instructors to succeed.

 

I’ve developed digital learning products for many years. At last count, they’ve been used by more than 25 million learners. That’s both thrilling and a humbling responsibility. Yet looking forward, I think we’re entering into a particularly exciting chapter in digital education. Here’s what we’re employing at Macmillan Learning and why I’m so excited by what we can contribute to learners and learning:

 

  • Digital technologies are finally sufficiently flexible and ubiquitous that we can develop learning products that really are personal and connected.

 

  • Design thinking has revolutionized how to co-create with students and instructors education solutions that solve fundamental challenges with compelling and intuitive experiences.

 

  • Learning Science is an evolving field, but much is well understood about how to apply it to design effective and impactful learning experiences. Blended with User Experience Design, we can now engineer better learning into digital products.

 

  • Agile development (from software, to content, and beyond) allows iterative, continuous improvement which is critical in turning a good learning experience into a great one.

 

  • Implementation science is emerging as a means to research how different instructors in different situations can achieve different results with the same learning tools, and to use these insights to help more of their peers to get better results.

 

  • Engineering digital products to capture specific interaction data is revealing entirely new, empirical insights into how students behave and learn. Combined with contextual “small data” from on-the-ground observations, we can now research at the local and national level - from how effective a product is in improving learner outcomes and how it can be refined, to how instructors can be guided to get the very best results for their students.

 

With this innovation toolkit to hand, it’s been a lot of fun to build an entirely new Learning Science and Insights team from the ground up at Macmillan Learning. We certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but we do believe that the blend of learning science (what works), user-centered design (empathy and understanding), and insights from big and small data (empirical trends and local context) are helping us to design a next-generation of learning products that will help more learners to reach their goals.

 

We are energized by the opportunity to help learners and instructors to succeed, and humbled by the responsibility. We’ll be regularly sharing our approach, findings, successes and failures. We hope you’ll accompany us along our journey and contribute to it.

 

Providing instructors with reliable and practical evidence about what digital educational tools will improve learner outcomes for their courses is critical to improving student success. But the complexity and variety of their educational ecosystems makes measuring the impact of educational tools difficult.  

Instructors and institutions are increasingly asking for evidence of how a digital educational tool may perform for their student body, educational context, and course goals as part of their buying decision. Impact Research attempts to answer these questions by exploring the impact of a tool on educational outcomes. However, traditional approaches to Impact Research face significant challenges, including the complexity and variability of educational ecosystems, and the speed of innovation and continuous evolution of digital educational tools.

To address this, we at Macmillan Learning are excited by the opportunity to develop an innovative framework for researching the effectiveness of digital learning tools that incorporates a life-cycle of testing through all stages of development and as tools mature in market.  We believe that agile research methods that incorporate implementation science and rapid-cycle evaluations repeated in varied educational environments and use cases will lead to a continuously growing body of evidence that will provide more useful and actionable insights for instructors and institutions into how a product will be effective and under what circumstances.

Macmillan Learning partners with leading researchers

The development of a rigorous and practical approach requires expert input from many fields.  To help guide our approach, provide ongoing feedback as the framework is refined, and critique our reports and claims, the Learning Science and Insights Team at Macmillan Learning has formed an Impact Research Advisory Council.  These expert academics will support our efforts to make our research and evaluation insights meaningful to instructors and identify opportunities for optimizing the design, development, and use of tools and resources that we develop.

 

The Impact Research Advisory Council is made up of experts in the areas of using technology to enhance learning, practically measuring the impact of digital tools, modeling and evaluating learning performance, establishing standards for measurement in education, communicating results to increase utility, data security, and protecting the privacy of human subjects.  

 

Meet the Macmillan Learning Impact Research Advisory Council 

 

Dr. Christopher Dede; Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology Innovation, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education  

Dr. Dede’s research focuses on developing new types of educational systems to meet the opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century.  His work spans emerging technologies for learning, infusing technology into large-scale educational improvement initiatives, developing policies that support educational transformation, and providing leadership in educational innovation.  He has conducted externally funded studies to develop and assess learning environments based on virtual worlds, augmented realities, transformed social interaction, and online teacher professional development.  He is a leader in mobile learning initiatives and has developed a widely used Framework for scaling up educational innovations.

 

Michael Feldstein; Partner at MindWires Consulting, Co-Publisher of e_literate, Co-Producer of e-Literate TV

Feldstein is a prominent figure in the educational technology space who regularly provides strategic planning and program management consulting for universities, publishers, educational technology companies, and financial services companies.  His research focuses on the development and provision of eLearning and knowledge management products and services, with a special emphasis on software simulations.  Feldstein is a frequent invited speaker on a range of e-learning related topics including; usability, the future of the LMS, ePortfolios, and edupatents for organizations ranging from the eLearning Guild to the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council.  

 

Dr. Sara Finney; Professor, Department of Graduate Psychology and Associate Director in the Center for Assessment and Research Studies

 Dr. Finney’s work spans issues and techniques broadly related to measurement and statistics in psychology and education. Her scholarship focuses on the presence of less-than-ideal conditions for research, quality of measures, the measurement of academic entitlement, and test-taking motivation for students. As part of Dr. Finney’s work at the Center for Assessment and Research Studies she designs and leads impact research around campus initiatives.  Focused on actionable insights, the program of research is developed around gathering a body of evidence of effectiveness and impact using novel approaches to research and evaluation.

 

Dr. Suzanne Lane; Department Chair Research Methodology, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Lane is a recognized measurement methodologist who has published extensively on technical and validity issues associated with educational measurement.  Her work is published in journals such as the Journal of Educational Measurement, Applied Measurement in Education, and Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice. She was the President of NCME, Vice President of Division D of AERA, member of the AERA, APA, and NCME Joint Committee for the Revision of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, and member of the Management Committee for the next revision of the Standards. 

 

Dr. Thanos PatelisResearch Scholar, Fordham University and Principal Scientist, Human Resources Research Organization

Dr. Patelis has worked over 25 years in education as an applied researcher, statistical analyst, and measurement expert. His scholarship focuses on measuring learning progressions, constructing valid metacognitive measurements, multivariate statistical analysis, program evaluation, structural equation modeling, and applied psychometrics. His extensive experience and achievement is reflected in over 70 publications and 125 presentations. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 5, Qualitative and Quantitative Methods, has served as chair of APA’s Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment, is head of psychology for the Athens Institute for Education and Research, and is associate editor for Applied Measurement of Education.

 

Dr. Elana Zeide; Yale Law School Visiting Fellow, Information Society Project; Princeton University, Associate Research Scholar, Center for Information Technology Policy

Dr. Zeide is an attorney, scholar, and consultant focusing on student privacy, predictive analytics, and the proverbial permanent record in the age of big data. Dr. Zeide examines the law, policies, and cultural norms emerging as education and human evaluation become increasingly data-driven. This includes exploring how innovation alters the assumptions underlying traditional and new approaches to data protection and creating cross-disciplinary conversations to better align privacy conceptualization and regulation to today's technology. Dr. Zeide is an affiliate at the Data & Society Research Institute, and an Advisory Board member of the Future of Privacy Forum.

 

We thank the expert Advisers working with us, and look forward to on-going engagement with the educational community as we learn and evolve our framework for measuring the effectiveness of digital learning tools.

This week, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) named the 2017 CODiE Award Finalists. We are thrilled to have several nominated solutions this year!

 

Macmillan Learning - Intellus Learning
Best Digital Aggregation & Sharing Solution

Macmillan Learning - FlipIt 

Best Social Sciences or Social Studies Instructional Solution

 

Macmillan Learning - Sapling Learning

Best Science Instructional Solution

 

Finalists represent applications, products, and services from developers of educational software, digital content, online learning services and related technologies across the PreK-20 space. The SIIA CODiE Awards offer 93 categories that are organized by industry focus of education technology and business technology. The three nominated Macmillan Learning solutions are one of 160 finalists across the 34 education technology categories.

 

Winners will be announced during a CODiE Award Winner Ceremony in San Francisco on July 26 at the Education Impact Symposium, hosted by the Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN), a division of SIIA.

Details about each finalist are listed at: http://www.siia.net/codie/Finalists.

Company maximizing powerful opportunity to blend learning research, human-centered design, analytics, and impact research to help educators and learners reach full potential.

 

New York, May 10, 2017 – Macmillan Learning, a leading education solutions company, announced significant investments in expanding their learning research and design capabilities to leverage emerging research and insights to drive future innovation.

 

Chief Executive Officer, Ken Michaels stated, “We know more about how students learn than ever before. We have an unprecedented opportunity to help students to achieve their academic goals by utilizing the science of learning.  And in this rapidly changing education landscape, instructors and administrators are seeking partners able to provide holistic, actionable, data-based insights.”

 

This commitment is embodied in Macmillan’s Learning Science and Insights division. Led by Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Adam Black, the team’s mission is to forge a synthesized, end-to-end approach to the research, design, development, evaluation, instructional support, and continuous improvement of all learning solutions.

 

Macmillan’s Learning Science and Insights division brings together a formidable group of industry-leading researchers, analysts, and faculty advisors with Macmillan’s User Experience Design team. Senior leaders include: Dr. Jeff Bergin, VP of Learning Research and Design; Dr. Rasil Warnakulasooriya, VP of Analytics and Insights; and Dr. Kara McWilliams, Senior Director of Impact Research. Leveraging the considerable experience of the team, Macmillan’s unusually broad portfolio of learning tools, and the growing body of learning science, is helping Macmillan Learning to redefine a learner-centered strategy.

 

A lot is known about how to engage each learner at the right cognitive level, through to coaching them with effective study strategies during a course and through their college career,” described Dr. Black. “Codifying this research into practical design principles, and co-evolving solutions with learners and instructors through user-centered design enables us to develop innovative solutions that are deeply intuitive and engineered to improve learning outcomes.”

 

Dr. Black went on to describe their process. “Designing data capture and feedback loops into our learning solutions enables us to continuously improve and is already revealing fascinating empirical insights into learners that are driving our future innovations,” he noted.

 

Commenting on the new Learning Science and Insights division, Managing Director Susan Winslow said, “It doesn’t get more exciting than helping learners, instructors, and institutions achieve their best outcomes. We are applying educational research to the design of our products, continuously evaluating the impact of our solutions, and utilizing insights from big and small data, as we prepare to roll out the first solutions informed from this work in 2018. We are passionate about the opportunity to make a significant difference in the teaching and learning process. This is what drives us each and every day.”

 

Macmillan has a rich history of continuous innovation in education tied directly to enhancing the learner’s experience and ultimate success, including the recent acquisition of several educational technology companies.

To learn more about Macmillan Learning’s Learning Science and Insights team and the journey we are on, visit macmillanlearning.com

 

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About Macmillan Learning

Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visit our website or see us on Facebook, Twitter, or join our Macmillan Community.

Educational technology has the potential to dramatically improve learner outcomes, but only if instructors are helped to understand what works for their students and classrooms.

 

Measuring the efficacy of ed tech is difficult because of the complexity and variety of educational settings. Arriving at a clear approach begins with collaboration between developers, researchers and the instructors using these technologies.  

 

To work toward making efficacy research results more actionable, the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, in partnership with Jefferson Education Accelerator and Digital Promise, invited 275 researchers, entrepreneurs, district and university leaders, and teachers and professors to the EdTech Efficacy Research Academic Symposium in Washington D.C. The two-day meeting provided a forum for collaboration and the development of an action plan - to clarify what is meant by the efficacy of ed tech, and to develop more systematic approaches to measuring efficacy within complex and differing educational contexts.  

 

One of the clearest and most widely supported recommendations was that in order to better support instructors, a paradigm shift is needed in research - away from standalone statements of efficacy and toward the development of a body of evidence of a tool’s effectiveness. There was also consensus that building this sort of evidence takes time, and needs to be done collaboratively between researchers and educators.

 

Three key themes are driving the need for a paradigm shift in efficacy research

 

1.) The Counterfactual model is useful, but may not meet a university or instructor's needs

 

There was a strong message that researchers should resist the race up the ladder of evidence to randomized controlled trials (RCT), and instead rightsize study designs to provide insights that will help instructors.  During a panel discussion, Linda Roberts, Founding Director of the United States Office of Ed Tech suggested that the “Gold Standard” of RCTs cannot be the only model for measuring effectiveness in ed tech, noting that digital tools are often continually evolving.  Susan Fuhrman (Teachers College) echoed these comments by reminding us that RCTs should only be conducted when a product has been in use for at least a year and so aren’t useful for providing insights earlier in product development when significant changes could be made. And Brandon Busteed from Gallup shared from personal experience that many ed tech products won’t survive the (about) seven years it takes to fully communicate the results from an RCT, and that many adoption decisions are already made in absence of evidence.

 

The take-away: Conducting rapid-cycle studies that meet the standards of their design and provide actionable insights in a timely manner would better serve the needs of instructors and learners than would a rigorous RCT.

 

2.) Context and use cases are significant factors to consider when measuring impact

 

How an ed tech tool is used and in what context are critical to impacting learner outcomes.  There was consensus that systematically examining instructor implementations should be priority, as well as an understanding of the challenges.  Karen Vaites (OpenUp Resources) noted that, in general, edtech companies have a desire to explore context, but many can’t afford to conduct on-the-ground studies in multiple institutions and explore multiple implementation models.  Researchers and educators should work together to identify methods for measuring local impact and aggregating those results across multiple settings.  Results would help instructors to understand whether the edtech will work in a classroom like theirs. And, a meta-analysis of studies would be useful add to a product’s overall efficacy portfolio.

 

The take-away:  A tool’s efficacy research must start with a keen understanding of it’s users and use cases, and meaningful classifications of institutions and implementation models.  Then, a representative sample can be identified to conduct rapid, scalable implementation studies across contexts.  

 

3.) Providing instructors with the right information and at the right time to make informed decisions

 

Instructors often rely on a game of “telephone research” when making ed tech adoption decisions, asking friends and colleagues for advice - in part because research results are often not helpful to them.  In a lightning round presentation, Richard Culatta (ISTE) also reminded us that research results that emerge after adoption decisions have been made are useless.  Instructors can become more informed decision makers if the research community can evolve practices to provide more clear and timely communication about what works, for who, and why.  Linda Roberts suggested that if it takes three to five years to communicate research results, then current research should be focusing on the questions instructors will have three to five years from now!  These themes suggest that research should consider two parallel work streams: one providing immediate insights to instructors about current ed tech, and a second looking three to five years out, to set up studies to answer future questions.

The take-away: In the near term, instructors could benefit from intuitive dashboards that provide insights into their learners’ performance.  Rapid evaluations during the development of a product can deliver immediate, actionable results in brief, consumable reports.  Taken together, these artifacts can answer instructor’s immediate questions and build a body of evidence that will help to frame their future questions.

A call to action

The symposium concluded with a call to collaborative action - as Aubrey Francisco (Digital Promise) commented, “No one stakeholder [is] to blame for evidence not being [the] key driver of ed tech decision making, but it is everyone’s burden”.  Attendees committed to evolving the bridge between research and practice, and to partnering to grow a body of evidence that more effectively answers the questions emerging in schools and universities.

A job well done

 

A huge thank you to the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, the Jefferson Education Accelerator, and Digital Promise. And, to each of the Working Groups who spent the past six months tackling these tough topics, conducting important research, and sharing their findings throughout the two-day symposium.  All of the presentations were informative, insightful, and inspiring.

 

For more of my insights from the Symposium follow me on twitter at @karamcwilliams and join the conversation at #ShowTheEvidence.  

Also, be sure to stay tuned for my forthcoming blog series “Impacts to Insights” on the Macmillan Community 

Known by many names—mentor, instructor, professor, or teacher—you’re driven to action by one force: to inspire and educate the future. This is an immense task and, in our Information Age, it is one that is constantly changing. Yet, you persevere.

Over the course of my career in education, I’ve encountered many teachers who not only passionately instruct and educate, but strive to adapt to the increasing rate of change in technology and methodology. All of this is done in the name of student success.  

In fact, I remember a professor from my undergraduate days whose forward-thinking methods changed my worldview and her class marked a turning point in my maturity. This professor challenged my core beliefs, stretched my awareness, and encouraged me to use critical thinking and argument theory long before these methods were in vogue.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that the skills she taught in that class are critical in life. They not only strengthen a person’s approach to complex problems, but can shape the character of who that person will become.

With this in mind, I wanted to take the time this Teacher Appreciation Week to express our gratitude and admiration for everything it is that teachers do.

The work you do is an invaluable asset on the road to progress.  Make no mistake, you are affecting change and shaping the future of civilization every day, but the good news is that you’re not in it alone.

We’re here with you—ready to support your needs, tackle your challenges, and ease your burdens—every step of the way.  

All the best,

Ken Michaels

Appointment Signals Accelerated Innovation for Education Company

New York, NY & Austin, TX, April 27, 2017 - Macmillan Learning, a leading education solutions company, today announced the appointment of Chelsea Valentine as Chief Technology Officer. Ms. Valentine will play a key role in shaping the company’s technology agenda and future digital vision. She will report directly to Macmillan Learning Chief Executive Officer, Ken Michaels.

“We continue to see increased demand for more personalized teaching and learning pathways, data-driven decision making, and open architecture on college campuses,” said Mr. Michaels. “Chelsea brings a unique blend of skillsets and experience to drive innovative, flexible solutions for today’s educational challenges. She has the foundational discipline for the governance and scale necessary in our increasingly digital world.”

Ms. Valentine brings over 20 years of experience in technology, publishing, and education. As a published author of over a dozen books on web application development and a former adjunct professor, she brings a unique perspective as both an educator and technology leader. Ms. Valentine joined Macmillan in 2013 to lead product development for Sapling Learning, a division of Macmillan. In 2015, Ms. Valentine took leadership of the technology and engineering vision for the Macmillan team and has since revolutionized the company's architectural approach and roadmap.

“Chelsea’s expertise has been a game-changer,” said Managing Director, Susan Winslow. “Her collaboration with our Learning Science and Insights and Product Development teams has been instrumental to the creation of tools that most effectively drive positive student outcomes.”

Speaking about the importance of working in education, Ms. Valentine noted, “I have spent my career focused on education. I am thrilled to join this team and honored to support Macmillan Learning’s vision. This company has an impressive history of innovation and educational leadership. There is tremendous room to maximize the opportunities in education with our digital solutions. Most importantly, at Macmillan, our teams are not only working on bleeding-edge innovation every single day, we also all understand that what we do here every day matters.”

“Chelsea’s appointment is a key component to our strategy at Macmillan Learning as we continue toward our goals of innovation, operational excellence and improving lives through learning,” said Mr. Michaels. “She will be a key high impact player for our customers moving forward.”

Ms. Valentine will be based in the company’s Austin, TX office.

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About Macmillan Learning
Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visit our website or see us on Facebook, Twitter, or join our Macmillan Community.

Macmillan Learning has offices in Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Hamilton, NJ; Los Altos, CA; Plymouth, MI; New York, NY and Springfield, MO.