Texas-based K.I.D.S., Inc. began in the mid-1980s as an educational test publishing company, but over time that has become only a small part of its business. Today, 80 percent of
Texas-based K.I.D.S., Inc. began in the mid-1980s as an educational test publishing company, but over time that has become only a small part of its business. Today, 80 percent of its revenue comes from the three-year-old school neuropsych.com division, which provides a combination of monthly face-to-face classroom training and Web-based instruction in neuropsychology for school psychologists.
The eight-month certification curriculum was originally presented only as an on-site program in three metropolitan areas. It will expand to nine in 2009. Plans are in place for programs in 15 to 20 locations within the next five years. This year, up to 140 students will be required to attend face-to-face lectures and instruction one weekend each month in addition to their online coursework.
K.I.D.S., Inc. president Dr. Daniel C. Miller knew from the beginning that the Blackboard system would be an integral part of the training curriculum:
“Prior to K.I.D.S., Inc., I tried creating my own Website when I was teaching a pilot version of the certification course. Without the Blackboard platform in place, trying to create discussion threads, review quizzes and other postings was very, very cumbersome. I’d much rather focus on content, so that’s why I chose Blackboard — to make my life much easier.”
Miller was concerned about the cost of selecting a platform when the new division was just getting off the ground. However, the timing turned out to be perfect since Blackboard ProSites was just being launched. It enables instructors to quickly and easily create and deliver courses in a branded portal environment that can easily be expanded to a full scale solution. K.I.D.S., Inc., became its first commercial user in 2007.
“The full enterprise version of Blackboard was well beyond our budget,” Miller now notes. “ProSites is a great vehicle for small companies and entrepreneurs and has actually been a fun, easy and intuitive program to use.”
Several key features have proven to be extremely beneficial to both K.I.D.S., Inc.’s students and instructors.
>> Centrally organized structure. For each learning module, Miller creates a syllabus detailing the learning objectives and available resources. Laid out near announcements, links and the toolbar, everything students need is consolidated in one location. “They’d be overwhelmed without this kind of organization. This gives them small chunks of information that are much more manageable and easier to digest,” Miller says.
>> Ease of use. Navigation, operation and maintenance has been easy for students and faculty. Dr. Jodi Lowther, a K.I.D.S., Inc. instructor and licensed specialist in school psychology for the Fort WorthIndependent School District, says, “It takes much longer to figure out how to phrase my discussion questions than the two minutes it takes to set them up in Blackboard.”
>> Content and review quizzes. Immediate feedback on quiz performance allows students to focus on problem areas and keeps them on track between on-site, in-person class meetings.
>> Networking opportunities. Because students physically meet only once a month, discussion threads allow them to network no matter where they are. This is true for instructors as well. “We can interact with one another and find out how different instructional elements work for other teachers,” Lowther says. “It helps me feel less isolated even though we are all teaching in different places all across the country.”
GROWTH AND EXPANSION
According to Miller’s projections, incorporating ProSites will have helped K.I.D.S., Inc. increase its reach nearly 200 percent by 2010 and grow from a $100,000 per year company to close to $1 million per year in five years. A new hybrid training curriculum is also in development to take advantage of ProSites’ distance-learning capabilities. This will allow expansion to international students as well as those in the U.S who are not able to reach one of the on-site training centers each month to complete their certification.
K.I.D.S., Inc. has also added a School Neuropsychology Alumni that lets school psychologists who have obtained their neuropsychology certification network with others, stay up to date with the most current developments, and complete annual continuing education units required for maintaining their certification.
—To learn more about Blackboard ProSites, visit the Website www.blackboardprosites.com or call (888) 719-6123.