One question you must ask of your learning data

Once we collect the learning data available to us we can actually see if it’s working or not.

We don’t know our learners.

We know very little about them. About 10% of the learner, give or take, is known to us. That is, what happens inside the classroom, LMS or other type of learning environment.

Continue reading “One question you must ask of your learning data”

Differences between an LMS and LRS

What are the differences between an LMS and LRS? Do you need both? What can and can’t each piece do?

We’ve compiled below a list of capabilities of an LMS. This is to illustrate the point that the LRS will not, and is not intended to, replace the LMS. The LRS simply stores all of the learning data as a component of an LMS.

Continue reading “Differences between an LMS and LRS”

3 reasons education needs an LRS

Education needs an LRS. Here are three reasons why

We have a very rudimentary understanding of how our students and teachers actually learn.

We can’t tell how and when they are learning or what their preferred learning style is. We can barely even see our learners data without (practically) begging for it.

Continue reading “3 reasons education needs an LRS”

Why have a Learning Record Store?

You know what a Learning Record Store is but why do you need one?

learning record store

That’s a quote from an outstanding blog post by the good people over at Learning Locker where they explain why a company or organization would need a Learning Record Store (LRS).

It’s a broad and basic quote for sure but, in our minds, is extremely applicable within the context of education.

Continue reading “Why have a Learning Record Store?”

Thrivist and the Learning Record Store

Why Thrivist exists and how the Learning Record Store supports our mission

Today’s education market demands technology that is easy-to-use, intuitive, adapts to an individual’s learning style and creates actionable insights from the data collected.

Adaptive learning and actionable insights from data, we feel, are what is currently missing in education solutions today. There isn’t anyone in K-12 education working to solve those two problems.

Thrivist exists to solve those two problems.

Continue reading “Thrivist and the Learning Record Store”

A Look Back: Week in review

Thrivist Education Week In Review


Our Top Picks for Education News This Week

Equity in Education

Student Engagement

Personalized Learning

Grants for K12 Education

Cool Tidbits


What You Need to Know About ESSA (Infographic)

Recently, we were able to speak with Dr. Paula Love, the RFP Matchmaker, and discuss the implications of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for school systems as well as industries serving them.  Dr. Love shared valuable information to assist us in serving students.  Here are some highlights to assist you as well and if you are interested in learning more, please download our Infographic ESSA Policy & Funding Update.

New Funding Landscape

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015 ending the reign of NCLB and ushering in a new era in American education. It is important to understand these changes in policy and funding in order to serve students to their full potential.

  • Highlights of ESSA Goals
    • Ensure high standards
    • Preserve annual assessments while reducing unnecessary testing
    • Maintain integrity
    • Equity
    • Empower state and local leaders to develop strong systems
    • Establish  new resources

Interested in learning more? Download the infographic.


Teacher self-assessment for blended learning

posted by MVLRI, on February 10, 2016 at
Guest Authors,  Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute and Dr. Wendy Oliver

Academic research in the field of effective practices specific to blended and online learning in K-12 classrooms is still “young,” so the lack of data to define those practices and build the resources to prepare teachers to excel when teaching in blended and online environments is not surprising. However, as the pedagogy emerges and the rate of adoption continues to grow, educators and administrators need direction in incorporating best practices of blended and online learning in K-12 environments. With the idea of furthering the field in mind, I developed two frameworks to identify standards and essential components of both blended and online instruction. Continued exposure in the field has led to specific focus on the needs of instructors trying to implement blended instruction, as their barriers seem to be undeveloped or lacking resources for growth.

In order to meet the current demands of teachers and administrators for professional development on blended learning pedagogy, I married the framework with personalized professional development in the design of The Blended Practice Profile, a software that allows teachers to self-assess, resulting in a personalized professional development plan to improve on his or her blended learning instructional skills. The software also provides comparative data for teachers and is designed to influence national and international trends in administrator expectations of teachers in the blended learning environment. For example, reporting allows a veteran science teacher in an urban school to see how other veteran science teachers fair in comparison with pedagogical expectations across the country. Reporting features also compare teacher performance strictly by environment. For instance, how do teachers in urban compare with suburban school districts regarding blended pedagogy?

The software is linked to The Framework for Blended Instruction, which was designed and validated with the intention of providing examples of best practices to K-12 educators. Both Oliver’s Framework for Blended Instruction and The Blended Practice Profile have been tested for validity. During 2014-2015, teams representing a national sample of subject matter experts evaluated Oliver’s Framework for validity. National focus groups analyzed items from the Blended Practice Profile instrument in 2013 to establish validity, and in 2015 participant results (n=367) were also used to test the Blended Practice Profile instrument for validity. Cronbach’s alpha for the 33 blended items on the Blended Practice Profile was .95.

Cronbach’s alpha
Number of Items
Domain I
Domain II
Domain III
Domain IV
Domain V
Domain VI


The Framework for Blended Instruction is aligned to several national standards, including the International Society for Technology & Education (ISTE) Standards for Teachers, ISTE Standards for Students, the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) Standards for Professional Development of Teachers, and the iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Teaching. The Innovation Configuration Map (IC Map), which presents contextual examples of each standard, is aligned to national standards including: Common Core State Standards (CCSSO), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The Blended Profile instrument was originally designed to shed light on actual teaching practice in which “good teaching is good teaching,” whether learning takes place in a traditional classroom, entirely online or in a blended teaching environment. Interesting findings emerged while validating the instrument in national focus groups in Washington DC in 2013, where teacher participation was voluntary. Some of these results are shared here while the results in their entirety will be shared in the upcoming special issue of the Journal of Online Learning Research.

When testing for item clarity for consistent interpretation, teachers were asked to identify from examples of traditional, blended and online instruction, all of which were rich examples of pedagogy from each environment phrased using an Ipsative design (a methodology where each response selection for participants is a positive choice with no negative connotations), the response that most closely aligned to their teaching practice. Focus group participants became exceedingly frustrated and began searching for responses that fit the blended pedagogy. Comments supported that the participants were selecting blended learning pedagogy because it was most socially desirable. For example, participants stated that “there is a lot of pressure from my principal to teach blended, even though I don’t really know how to do it.”

Additionally, participants were particularly interested to know how their implementation practices of blended learning compared to those of others in similar teacher settings. This interest wasn’t necessarily one of competition. Rather, the participants wanted to know how their implementation compared to others in the field so they could gauge their own adoption and practice as the implementation of blended learning increases in K-12 education.

Participants felt expectations for implementing blended learning with their students were the same regardless of teaching environment or setting. A teacher in an urban environment shared that she is held to the same standard as a teacher in a suburban environment even though stakeholder and student access to technology is very different. There was clearly a need for a diagnostic instrument that allowed teachers to compare their practice to others with similar experience and in a similar teaching environment.

Dr. Wendy OliverDr. Wendy Oliver is interested in furthering the research in the area of professional development in blended and online learning. As a result of her work thus far, she has developed a software tool that allows teachers to self-assess their skills in blended learning, resulting in a personalized professional development plan to improve their skills in blended learning instruction. One of the primary goals with the results from the survey software is to advance the body of knowledge on blended teacher practices internationally. The survey itself is offered at no charge to teachers at Oliver is co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Online Learning and Research that will focus specifically on professional development in online and blended learning in June 2016. Contact Dr. Wendy Oliver at

Fueling education’s digital shift

Written by Guest Author Paula Love

This article was originally posted by District Administration, March 2016 and is being reprinted with their permission.

Funding opportunities under ESSA are sure to improve technology adoption

K12 education is making strides in the digital shift. According to MDR’s 2015 EdNET Insight survey, more than 50 percent of curriculum directors anticipate a significant conversion from print to digital materials within the next three years.

And it appears this shift is about to get a big boost from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s new education law, which is poised to provide the funding and flexibility to immerse U.S. schools in digital learning.

Policy, funding woes

The digital shift has been a slow and often painful transition for K12 schools, fraught with barriers. Districts identify funding as the number one obstacle to digital adoption, according to the Center for Digital Education. Outdated state policies are also cited as a hurdle.

Many have not even updated their definition of instructional materials to include digital content.

In addition, federal education dollars often come with tightly prescribed spending guidelines and little flexibility at the local level to fund a digital shift. Although federal programs—such as Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (i3)—have pushed the needle closer by investing in programs to increase the use of technology, these grants have not impacted the vast majority of U.S. schools.

Similarly, private foundations and organizations—including the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Blended and Online Learning Foundation—aid in the effort.

But again, the effect of these efforts has not yet been realized on a broad scale.

ESSA support 

The new ESSA law strongly supports the shift—both in language and funding. Under ESSA, expect to see an increase in the prevalence as well as the rate of adoption of digital learning materials.

ESSA represents a major swing in how edtech can be funded, by giving greater flexibility to state and local decision-makers. From new block grants to innovative discretionary grants, key programs authorized by ESSA will fuel and expand the digital learning shift in the United States.

A new $1.65 billion block grant under ESSA will allow schools to use up to 60 percent of funds—almost $900 million annually—for the effective use of technology. The block grant, named the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant, requires districts to spend at least 20 percent to help students become well-rounded and another 20 percent to help kids be safe and healthy. The remaining 60 percent can be used for the effective use of technology. States and districts are expected to have significant flexibility in determining how these funds are spent.

Another ESSA program that will boost edtech funding is the Education Innovation & Research grant. Modeled after the current i3 program, this grant will fund the development and implementation of innovative approaches to improve student learning. Approaches must be evidence-based and can include strategies such as personalized and blended learning. Funding for this grant program for FY2017 is estimated to be $70 million, increasing to nearly $90 million by FY2019.

ESSA will also create common definitions for many ed-tech terms, including “blended learning,”  “digital learning” and even “technology” to ensure consistency in how it is implemented.

This tech-supported funding coincides with the growing adoption of digital learning materials by K12 districts. Several states—including California, Indiana and Texas—have revised instructional materials guidelines to allow districts to use funding traditionally earmarked as “textbook dollars” to buy digital instructional materials. And North Carolina took it a step further by passing a state law requiring districts to buy only electronic textbooks and materials by 2017.

Collaborate, advocate and plan

It’s time to collaborate at local and state levels to prepare to make the most of this digital funding boon. Districts should develop a plan to enhance digital learning, from device management to pedagogical considerations. The State Educational Technology Directors Association offers recommendations for navigating the digital shift.

With the groundwork laid, you will be ready to maximize the ESSA funding that comes your way to make effective digital learning a reality for your students.

Paula LoveAbout the author:

Known in the industry as the Matchmaker of Funding or the Funding Doctor, these phrases truly capture the essence of Dr. Paula Love. She is a renowned funding expert with decades of experience delivering grant strategies for for-profit and nonprofit organizations, state and local educational agencies, schools, and institutions of higher learning. Without a doubt, Dr. Love knows funding from every perspective, from the classroom to the boardroom.  Her nearly 40-year career has earned her great respect as a highly successful funding guru, but it is a little known fact that this work actually began at an early age. Young seven-year-old Paula rallied a community, raising so much money for cystic fibrosis that she made the front-page headlines in a prominent newspaper. Her desire for funding continued into her high school years, where she led her classmates to raise the bar in fundraising.  And that passion for helping others continues today, bringing funding resources to companies, classrooms and organizations. Dr. Love is a highly skilled funding consultant with a wealth of insight to offer to every company and organization she assists, helping improve processes and efficiencies while uncovering new opportunities for financial growth.

The Perks of Teaching Online: Flipping pancakes while grading papers



pancakes laptopImagine enjoying a nice cup of coffee and a stack of pancakes while reading the newspaper to start the day. Oh, and did I mention you are at work? That’s right, you can be flipping pancakes and grading papers all at the same time.  Working remotely as an online teacher isn’t for everyone, but it definitely comes with some perks that you should consider before ruling it out!

I’m not implying that teaching online means you will be eating bonbons and watching Netflix all day. Teaching online requires one to be highly organized, a good time manager, and have the ability to be very flexible. Online teachers don’t work a normal school schedule nor do they see their students face to face, so they must be creative in their approach to engaging students and building a rapport. There is a lot of hard work that goes into the day to day lives of online teachers, but for some, the advantages may offset the challenges.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of being an online teacher so you can decide for yourself.

  1. Flexibility

I know I stated that flexibility is one of the challenges but it is also a huge benefit of teaching online.  Students will expect you to be flexible with your hours of availability but you will have the ability to set those hours.  Not only that, but it allows you to tailor your schedule around a variety of activities that used to require a sick or vacation day. What?! Yes, you heard right, doctor’s appointment – no problem, need to get your roots touched up – schedule it, grocery shopping – go while everyone else is at the office.  Your day is your own as long as you meet your students’ needs and are available to them to create a successful atmosphere.

  1. Student Engagement

Student engagement can prove challenging to a new online teacher, however, it also comes with rewards. Your students might not be directly in front of you for your daily interactions but you can still develop a rapport with them and create an engaging environment. In fact, students who might be hesitant to participate in classroom discussions in person, are more apt to engage in meaningful discussions on line. Many students also feel more comfortable discussing their progress and asking questions since they get to interact with teachers one on one. Huge perk, in my opinion!

  1. Technology

Online teachers can teach anywhere there is an internet connection and a mobile device that the Learning Management System can operate on.  With the advances in technology, many online courses are accessible on laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more.  Technology also allows you to work more efficiently. Quizzes, surveys, quick checks, etc. can include automated grading items to help with the workload.  Working in this environment might also give you access to the latest programs and tools to integrate into your teaching. A win-win for you and your students.

  1. Facilitating higher order thinking

Using discussion forums without the time constraints of the classroom bell schedule gives online teachers more opportunities to ask higher order thinking questions.  Students can take more time to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information before replying. An added benefit is that discussion forums are in writing, so the teacher can review responses, pose more higher-order questions and continue the discussion further.

  1. Freedom

And one of the biggest perks of all is freedom.  Teaching remotely means you can work in your pajamas, not be bound to an alarm clock (for the most part), and eat lunch at a restaurant with friends.  Not having a building to go to or set schedule to work from gives you the opportunity to try new things like go to the gym, take a yoga class, or have a nice midday nap. Yes, I said you can take a nap if you want to!

So while your peers might be rushing out the door with coffee in hand to get to class before the bell rings, you can be flipping pancakes with one hand and reviewing your course on a laptop with the other.  For those of you who are adventurous of spirit and have a passion for teaching, consider teaching online.  Besides, think of all the money you can save on dry cleaning! 😉