Get to Know the Team Behind our Curriculum
Did you know that Florida Virtual School (FLVS) develops our own curriculum for courses? The FLVS Curriculum Department works from concept to course delivery to provide an exemplary academic experience. In this photo, a few of members of our Curriculum Development Team film a video for one of our elementary Language Arts courses!
Karen Hoenstine has been with FLVS for more than 10 years and has had the opportunity to work in a variety of roles within the organization. After joining the team as an English instructor, she decided to apply her expertise and become a Curriculum Specialist. The role of a curriculum specialist is to collaborate with his/her project team to create course content that aligns with the state standards and engages the learner.
In this interview, she shares details about her experience as a curriculum specialist – and why she loves creating online courses for FLVS students!
What is it like to develop an FLVS course?
It’s a little daunting to begin developing a new course, knowing how much is ahead of us. But it’s also exciting to know that we’re putting together something good for kids. We always start with the standards. We break them down, figure out what they’re asking students to do, and think about what the end result looks like. From there, we work backward to come up with the best way to get students to that end result. Once we have that plan in place, we start putting the pieces together.
Can you share any behind-the-scenes “secrets” that make courses more engaging?
I think our best kept “secret” is our engagement writers. We have a team of folks dedicated to creating engaging content for students. Anytime we have a lesson we feel is a little dry or boring, we send it on to the Engagement Writing team for some added kick. They also help us to create videos that explain more difficult concepts. In one course I’m working on, they wrote a video script that talks about running a llama farm in Peru. The engagement team is really creative, and it’s always a lot of fun to see what they come up with.
How does the English curriculum team select novels or other literature for courses?
Again, this all goes back to the standards. Especially now, with the new Florida BEST standards, there are often required or suggested pieces of literature to include in a course. So, the first thing we do is place those in the courses. After that, we try to find pieces that fit with a theme or idea we’re working with. For example, in our English 1 course there’s a nature theme in one of the modules, so we’ve used a piece by naturalist John Muir and paired it with a poem by William Wordsworth. In our 7th grade course, we have a theme of mystery in a module, so we used Poe’s Tell Tale Heart. We strive to find pieces that students will find interesting or engaging. In short, we do a LOT of reading.
What is a typical day like working with your team to develop a course?
Every day is a little different, but there are common things we do on a regular basis during a course development cycle. I routinely review lessons from the writer to make sure he/she has written what I expected, getting the message across the way I intended. I also review quizzes and exams to make sure they accurately assess the standards. I spend a lot of time talking and collaborating with subject matter experts and writers to plan upcoming lessons and figure out the best way to present content. I also have meetings with the project team and project manager to make sure we’re staying on schedule so we can get the course out to students as quickly as possible.
What has you most excited about your current projects?
I’m excited to be working on a Cybersecurity Program of Study with the CTE team this year. We’re getting ready to release a new course called Computer and Network Security Fundamentals. We will then immediately begin working on the next course for that program of study. It’s been a lot of fun working outside my content area and learning something new. And because it’s outside my area of expertise, I’m able to ask questions more from a perspective of a student because the information is all new to me. I’m super busy, but it’s fun to stretch and create entirely new opportunities for students.
The FLVS Curriculum Development Department has been recognized for their excellence in educational technology as an SIIA CODiE Finalist! This year they were celebrated for “Best STEM Solution for Grades PK-8 and Best Coding & Computational Thinking!”