Today, the world is experiencing remarkable technological and digital development in various fields, including skills development and education. The covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the importance of new technology and digitality in most of the world’s education systems. There is growing pressure for schools to transition from the traditional ways of providing education and skills toward digitalized educational practices in many countries. Teaching and learning materials such as textbooks are increasingly available digitally. The need for and adoption of digital curricula is becoming prominent and is soon estimated to become the norm in education systems worldwide
What is a digital curriculum? There is no straightforward answer to this question because of the elasticity of the term. Some researchers, such as Al-Awidi and Aldhafeeri (2017), define a digital curriculum as ‘any digital content that takes many forms to support the delivery of the curriculum and facilitates the achievement of educational goals.’ Similarly, Puttick et al. (2015) describe digital curricula as ‘digital classroom materials that can range from simple PDF conversions of print materials, to carefully designed web-based curricula with innovative and creative features such as on-demand supports and customized features based on student needs.’
The understanding of digital curriculum is also often associated with its potential features to go beyond the physical classroom setting. A digital curriculum offers the possibility of a blended learning environment or a fully online environment. In line with this, Remillard (2016) has classified two types of digital curriculum environments. The first is concerned with digitally-designed curriculum resources, including the tools (such as computers, tablets, smartphones), programs (e.g., Khan Academy, Algebra In Action, Learn Zillion, etc.), and interfaces (such as Learning Management System (LMS)). The second type of environment refers to “the vast collection of potential curriculum resources available to teachers, often marketed to them, through the internet” (Remillard, 2016).
Why is a digital curriculum important? A significant benefit of digital curriculum/resources is that they can easily be revised and updated and thus, add relevance to students learning experiences without the cost of reprinting or redistributing print materials such as a textbook (Fletcher et al., 2012:7). Moreover, digital content can be far more prosperous and engaging, including text and high-definition graphics, video clips, presentations, animations, simulations, interactive lessons, virtual labs, and online assessments (Fletcher et al., 2012). Additionally, unlike the traditional curriculum, advocates have reported the advantage of using a digital curriculum as having ‘the potential for greater interactivity, greater individualization (refers to methods whereby learners proceed individually through the digital materials), and customization, increased and varied social interactions, lower cost and greater accessibility, and assessments systems embedded that can make digital materials more adaptive and assessment data more actionable’ (Choppin & Borys, 2017). In terms of skills development, digitalization provides reskilling and upskilling with workers and contributes to lifelong learning (ILO, 2021).
There are also a few common challenges that have been reported as hindering factors to the success of digital curricula that should not be neglected. Research has shown that the shift to a fully digital curriculum presents logistical issues, particularly for instructional materials that demand access to the internet at school and home (Choppin et al., 2014). Literature has also pointed out other challenges related to teachers’ and students’ inadequate and sometimes lack of technological literacy. In some cases, as teachers are not prepared (enough) to implement a digital curriculum, they tend to struggle with digital curricula functionality and show reluctance to fully adopt it, particularly the more experienced ones (Al-Awidi and Aldhafeeri, 2017). A study conducted by Puttick et al. (2015) has demonstrated additional challenges related to the blurring role of teachers when engaging in digital materials in the classroom. The study shows that teachers’ expectations of where authority for teaching and learning in the classroom would reside presented them with various kinds of difficulties. The teachers in the study struggled to figure out their role when teaching with digital materials. It is also reported that full adoption of the digital curriculum may also run the risk of exacerbating the already existing educational inequality between high and low socio-economically disadvantaged students due to the digital divide.
In conclusion, despite the challenges, digital curricula generally enhance the status of education as it offers more novel and innovative ways to facilitate the teaching and learning process. A few suggestions need to be considered to make the most out of the digital curriculum. Research suggests that the first step is to include digital content as a part of the definition of instructional resources or textbooks. While minimal, that step is necessary (Fletcher et al., 2012:26). Fletcher et al. (2012) also suggest the following pointers (1) sustainable funding for devices, (2) robust internet connectivity, (3) up-to-date policies, (4)prepared educators, and (5) quality control and usability as success-making factors for digital curriculum development and implementation.
- Al-Awidi, H., & M Aldhafeeri, F. (2017). Teachers’ Readiness to Implement Digital Curriculum in Kuwaiti Schools. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 105–126. https://doi.org/10.28945/3685
- Choppin, J., & Borys, Z. (2017). Trends in the design, development, and use of digital curriculum materials. ZDM, 49(5), 663–674. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11858-017-0860-x
- Choppin, J., Carsons, C., Bory, Z., Cerosaletti, C., & Gillis, R. (2014). A Typology for Analyzing Digital Curricula in Mathematics Education. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.18404/ijemst.95334
- Fletcher, G., Schaffhauser, D, & Levin, D. (2012). Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age. Washington, DC: State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
- ILO (2021) Digitalization of national TVET and skills systems: Harnessing technology to support LLL.: Geneva: ILO.
- Puttick, G., Drayton, B., & Karp, J. (2015). Digital Curriculum in the Classroom: Authority, Control, and Teacher Role. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (IJET), 10(6), 11. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijet.v10i6.4825
- Remillard, J. T. (2016). Keeping an Eye on the Teacher in the Digital Curriculum Race. In M. Bates, & Z. Usiskin, (Eds.), Digital Curricula in School Mathematics (pp. 195-204). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.