Open source curriculum explained by Curriki | Online Schools Blog

Curriki: Delivering lesson plans to the world, free of charge

Open source curriculums have become more popular as more and more educational tools and lessons move online, but few are doing a better job of bringing open source curriculums more than Curriki, a non-profit that has built an active community of educators and students by offering K-12 students access to educational materials and lesson plans – for free.

But Curriki doesn’t just offer some course materials or a specific lesson. They focus on building an entire course that includes the lessons and the assessments. This comprehensive strategy and the free access have made Curriki a very popular resource. As of 2010, Curriki was housing more than 40,000 learning objects and hosts thousands of students and teachers from around the globe.

We got the chance to interview Curriki CEO Kim Jones via e-mail and her responses did not disappoint. We discussed everything from how Curriki got its start to how the company ensures that its material is credible.

When was Curriki founded and how long has it been a leading global community for education?

Scott McNealy (former CEO of Sun Microsystems) and I co-founded Curriki in 2004 when I was vice president of Global Education at Sun Microsystems. Curriki was conceived from the idea that technology can play a crucial role in breaking down the barriers of the Education Divide—the division of inequality that prevents children worldwide from access to quality education. We wanted to bring digital technologies to education and enable personalized learning experiences for students so they can learn at their own pace and have instant access to the latest information.

Curriki attracts more than 2 million unique visitors a year and currently has over 250,000 members.  What do you think makes Curriki so unique being able to attract such a large amount of users?

I’ll give you my “top 5” reasons:

1.      It’s free. Yes, that’s right. Curriki is completely free to anyone.

2.      The OERs have been created and contributed by educators, curriculum designers, curriculum partners, and school districts.

3.      They are “mashable.” Teachers may select resources (lesson plans, videos, animations, photos, units, etexts, etc.) want to use, access it, mix it up with other resources if you wish, and generate your own custom teaching tools.

4.      Curriki encourages you to add, subtract, and edit anything that will make the materials better for your purposes.

5.      And finally, it’s a social network for educators, allowing anyone – teachers, students or parents -- to join a like-minded community, and form groups to easily communicate with each other, share ideas and collaborate.

Curriki is a non-profit corporation, do you think this model offers a better learning experience for its users in the end?  If so, why do you think this is and what are some of the advantages of being a non-profit corporation over a commercialized entity?

Curriki is free and open. Our primary goal is to give teachers the best options to enable truly personalized educational plans, as all children learn differently. As a non-profit, we’re not distracted by trying to sell something and this enables us to retain the best interests of students and teachers.

Are there any restrictions and/or qualifications that need to be met to join and use the Curriki network as a student or teacher?

Anyone in the world – whether you’re a student, teacher, parent or simply curious – can join Curriki for free. You will need access to an internet-enabled computer or device to take advantage of our learning resources and participate in our interest groups.

Is there any membership fees associated with joining Curriki?  If so, what are the different levels or tiers?

Curriki is completely free to educators, students, and parents. In order to continue offering free, great service and enhanced functionality to users, we do ask corporate members to pay a $75 membership fee.  We also welcome donations! All donations and contributions go towards maintaining and enhancing Curriki.

Teachers and educators are a big part of what makes Curriki great because they are encouraged to share and publish curricula over the network.  Are there certain measures that the management team takes to ensure that these resources are credible?

Great question! Many Curriki contributors are teachers who use these materials themselves, so they have a strong interest in keeping the quality as high as possible. Curriki’s Content Review Team of content-area experts and teachers review and rate resources in the Curriki repository. CRS allows people seeking high-quality materials to find content in the Curriki repository that has already been vetted by subject-area experts.

Curriki also offers the chance to interact and form groups with other Curriki members.  Could you elaborate on what that entails and how it may enrich a user’s experience?

Creating a group on Curriki is a great way to develop a small community within the larger global education and learning community. Curriki allows teachers to connect with like-minded colleagues around the world and form communities around shared curricular goals. Groups can be based on shared interests, organizational affiliations, a specific curriculum development project, or whatever activity you feel will benefit from a shared space for a group of Curriki members. Some examples include Digital Tools for Homework Help, New Teachers and Expeditionary Learning group.

Curriki seems to be very receptive to feedback from members on how to further improve the community.  Are there certain features or improvements that we can expect coming soon?

We continue to improve the social networking and community experience for all. We are also curating content into collections, incorporating simple assessments, and aligning courses to standards.

Curriki was a top-rated non-profit for 2011 by  How gratifying is this achievement coming from such a reputable third party?

We are extremely honored to be recognized by greatnonprofits! We hope that this rating will help others become aware of Curriki so that our vibrant community of lifelong learners and educators will continue to grow.

What are some goals and objectives Curriki has set in its bright future to come?

Our primary goal is to be the destination site where people go to find open source content to improve teacher effectiveness and student outcomes!  We’re definitely on track as we have more than 6 million users today and are looking to grow that number to 10 million in the near future. Please help us spread the word so we can make a high-quality education accessible to all!

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