One of the wonderful parts of this job is learning new subject area content in order to better support our clients. Last year, we were approached by The Barksdale Reading Institute (BRI) to partner with them in creating a new online course called Parent Academy. It was Barksdale’s goal to design an online course to help parents and caregivers of rising kindergarteners understand what “kindergarten readiness” is, and to equip and empower them to work on kindergarten readiness skills with their child at home. This course was to be offered free of charge to the widest possible audience.
As parents ourselves, we thought we knew a lot about kindergarten readiness. Boy, were we wrong about that! Working on this course with BRI’s subject matter expert, Sandra Wilborn, was an unbelievable growth experience for us. As online course development experts, we usually work with our clients to identify a rather narrow target audience so we can design a learning experience that specifically meets their needs. For the Parent Academy course, we did just the opposite. As Ms. Wilborn told us, “our audience is any stakeholder in a 3-4-year-old’s educational journey. These stakeholders can be parents, grandparents, guardians, as well as individuals from organizations that may influence this journey (such as Head Start, Excel By 5, or other Pre-K programs).”
Whew! That’s a LOT of people. Pretty much the whole world, as a matter of fact. This required a very different design approach. We had to consider this wide audience in everything we created. Many of these caretakers wouldn’t be familiar with learning online, so it had to be extremely easy to navigate. It was also important that our subject-matter expert – Sandra – was constantly present to serve as both a cheerleader and a guide. To that end, the course is written from the first person perspective as though Sandra is speaking directly with the learner. We also created a friendly, animated cartoon avatar of Sandra that appears throughout the course. And we had to consider that there might be learners who don’t like to read, don’t read well, or who have difficulty reading English. To that end, Ms. Wilborn recorded most of the text, which can be accessed by clicking or touching an icon of her avatar placed throughout the course. When the course was tested, we were surprised to learn that a wide range of users appreciated the audio feature, stating that they used it while driving or doing household chores.
TFP worked with BRI to develop animations and dozens of downloadable worksheets and handouts to accompany the course. After the course was completed, we worked with BRI to produce facilitation materials for use with groups.
We are honored to share this course with you via the kind permission of The Barksdale Reading Institute. We really hope that you will look at it and take advantage of it – especially if you have young children. If you don’t have youngsters in your life, please feel free to share with others!
Parent Academy is a self-paced course and is broken into eight small hands-on modules. Each module will cover a few kindergarten readiness skills and provide simple hands-on activities and suggested materials that parents or caregivers can use to support their child’s development and prepare them for kindergarten. The eight modules are:
Module 1: Physical Development (Gross and Fine Motor Skills)
Module 2: Personal Life Skills
Module 3: Social and Emotional Skills
Module 4: Oral Language
Module 5: Letters and Sounds
Module 6: Written Communication
Module 7: Reading
Module 8: Math
Many, many thanks to the Barksdale Reading Institute for trusting us to help them create this valuable online resource. Enjoy!