Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Role of Virtual Classrooms in Primary Education

Distance learning teacher

The use of virtual classroom technology is becoming very common in Higher Education, but there has not been a corresponding rise in use within Primary (K-12) Education. Yet, the promise of the technology and the launch of a recent television commercial showcasing an ill student use case has raised the visibility of the issue. It’s certainly worth evaluating.

Before the discussion of the value and reach of virtual classrooms even starts, we have to begin with the technology basics. It’s more than just built in webcams on laptops or even a classroom camera and smart blackboard. In order to engage the students that are not physically in the classroom, we need multiple feeds and camera angles, and critically, a two way system that lets the teacher see what the remote student is feeling, focusing on, and in some manner, pick up on the visual clues that come from students. It’s not a TV studio, but, it is more than basic Skype like functionality. This can be an issue in a budget challenged district. There are some vendors with packaged virtual classroom solutions that are worth looking at.

School choice is a growing issue, and is unlikely to go away soon. And the use of virtual classrooms can be a means of taking schools that are “magnet”, “gifted”, or otherwise provide enhanced services in one attribute to a larger group of students. There is even a push among Catholic educators to use virtual classrooms to provide greater reach. One member of our local school board brought up the issue of using virtual classroom technology as a means of providing special education services for a number of districts at the same time, with one physical classroom, to reduce costs.

Another, and I believe highly important, role for virtual classrooms is for use during a weather event or other scenario where a large proportion of the student body is unable or unwilling to go to the physical school building. Clearly an event such as Hurricane Sandy would be an example, but even the recent influenza scare going through the Northeast may result in many children staying home to limit exposure to the virus. In these situations having the ability to conduct some level of virtual learning would be an improvement on just missing school completely. Of course if there is no power or communications network, this is a problem. However, during most events there is some level of connectivity that can be achieved. School districts would have to have technology contingency plans in place. These need not be expensive. Having a standing Webex site and teachers equipped with webcams is a very basic way you can start implementation. It’s not going to be the same as an actual class, but it would be better than just missing days.

Virtual classrooms aren’t just for colleges and universities any more. Yet, this isn’t a simple plug and play technology, and districts will have to spend the time to create very finite plans for how the virtual classroom will be used. But the benefits are there. There are even potential ways to save costs, and that can help pay for a virtual classroom initiative. The future is now and it is time to start the process. In 5-10 years, the role of virtual classrooms will no longer be an issue as they will become a common part of the educational process.

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Join Lenovo at FETC & TCEA Education Conferences

Lenovo Education Events

The annual FETC and TCEA Education Conferences are right around the corner!  Join Lenovo to get hands on demonstrations of some of our latest innovations in education technology.

We will have hands-on demonstrations of the new ThinkPad X131e Chromebook, as well as our full portfolio of ThinkPad Ultrabook™ PCs including the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. See how it stacks up to the competition before the show with this X1 Carbon vs MacBook Air (MBA) infographic.

Find out more about our product showcase at  or request a 1:1 meeting with us to learn more about Lenovo, discuss our education strategy, or understand our product roadmap.

To help you prepare for the show, we invite you to download these complimentary e-briefs:

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Lenovo Introduces Rugged ThinkPad Chromebook for Schools

By Lenovo Education
In Digital Curriculum, EdTech, One to One Learning, Professional Development, Technology Trends
Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Lenovo today announced the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook — a fast booting, highly customizable laptop PC built with rugged features for the daily rigors of K-12 education. The ThinkPad X131e Chromebook simplifies software and security management for school administrators and provides students and teachers with quick access to thousands of apps, education resources and storage.

Throughout the course of a typical school day, students’ laptops are often subject to extreme wear and tear. To help school-proof them, the ThinkPad X131e has rugged features including a rubber bumper around the top cover and stronger corners to protect the system in the case of an accidental drop. The hinges and hinge brackets are also strengthened to last more than 50,000 open and close cycles.

“The ThinkPad X131e has proven to be very successful in education environments,” said Jerry Paradise, executive director of product marketing, ThinkPad Product Group. “With the rugged features we added to the X131e, we’ve seen reduced failure rates in the field. This is a huge benefit to schools and students. We’re pleased to be able to offer this hardened ThinkPad Chromebook as a great computer for schools.”

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X131e Chromebook, provides students, educators, and IT administrators with an intuitive, easy-to-manage, and rugged laptop for all their computing needs right out of the box. Using Google Apps for Education along with thousands of web apps in the Chrome Web Store, students can easily create documents, edit spreadsheets, view multimedia videos, create slide show presentations and view PDF files.

Students can use the low-light webcam to communicate with students in other schools across the world or just across town. They can also easily connect via WiFi and Chrome’s fast start up gets students online instantly. With HDMI and VGA ports, students can present their reports to the class with a projector or big screen TV.

The 11.6-inch X131e laptop features an Intel® processor, a 1366×768 HD LED anti-glare screen, and three USB ports. At less than four pounds1 and battery life for the entire school day, students can easily carry the laptop between classes without the need to recharge.

Recognizing that one laptop doesn’t fit all, especially when it comes to schools, the ThinkPad X131e offers a number of customization options including custom colors, asset tagging services to help keep track of devices left on the school bus or in the classroom, and school logo etching to make every device unique to each educational institution2.

“Chromebooks are in use today by more than one-thousand K-12 schools, and they make an ideal one-to-one device because they’re more cost effective, easier to manage and maintain than traditional laptops or tablets,” said Caesar Sengupta, director of product management, Chrome OS, Google. “Lenovo has a great reputation in schools for making durable and reliable laptops, so we’re excited to partner with them to introduce the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook.”

As millions of students in education institutions across the country continue to use Google Apps for Education, administrators need a system that is easily manageable but also provides the layers of security required to safe guard a school’s ecosystem. In conjunction with Chrome’s built-in protection, Chromebooks allow schools’ IT teams to manage security and scalability through one dashboard. This allows IT professionals to configure and manage devices all from one place, saving time, resources and money rolling out multiple computer images.

For the always budget conscious educators and school administrators, Chromebooks cost less than most high end tablets and according to the IDC, require 69 percent less labor to deploy and 92 percent less labor to support3.

The ThinkPad X131e Chromebook will be available starting February 26th via special bid volume pricing starting at $429. Interested K-12 institutions should contact their Lenovo Sales Representative.

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Non-profit helps families find affordable child care

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- A non-profit organization is helping working families in the East Bay find affordable child care. However, the Contra Costa Child Care Council is having to do more with less.

It's about 9:30 a.m. and 4-year-old Dominic Erlec is starting his day with a song at St. Michael's Episcopal Preschool in Concord.

Five days of care per week costs more than $700 a month, which his mom could not afford without help.

"You think about child care, I'd be working just to pay my son's preschool," parent Ayla Peters said.

That's where the Contra Costa Child Care Council comes in. The non-profit doesn't provide child care itself, but it refers parents to places that do. Whether it is care for the whole day or just a few hours, thousands of parents got referrals last year.

The council also directs parents to places that provide everything from toilet training to housing and food assistance.

"We assist between five and ten thousand families per year actually find child care. We have something we call our child care fund that allows us to provide financial assistance to low income families," childcare council spokeswoman Kate Ertz-Berger said.

Over 1,000 low income families like Erlec's actually get financial aid help to pay for preschool or daycare, but It's tough. The council's budget is about $23 million this year, mostly from corporate, foundation and private donations. A big chunk also comes from the government.

However, belt tightening in Sacramento has cost the council $8 million in state aid over the past two years. "It's been very difficult. We've lost quite a bit of funding over the last few years. We've laid off about 40 percent of our workforce and unfortunately the needs haven't changed," Ertz-Berger said.

Those needs cover more than just daycare. Young Erlec needed work with language and fine motor skills. The Contra Costa Child Care Council Inclusion Program helped provide specialized instruction for that.

"He loves it here. He's excited to come to school every day. He's got a really good relationship and me too personally, with all the teachers here." Erlec's teacher said.

However, the waiting list to get into this sort of child care program grows long and longer as the funding shrinks.

The Contra Costa Child Care Council is hoping the new state budget will restore some of the money, but in the meantime they are hoping the public will help with donations. "I don't think there's any work more important than improving the lives of young children," Ertz-Berger said.

If you'd like to host our next meeting, click on the Community page here.

(Copyright ©2013 KGO-TV/DT.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff Postponed – The Impact on EdTech

Going over the cliff

In the last two weeks, it’s been pretty much impossible to ignore the looming Fiscal Cliff. Going over the cliff was discussed as funding Armageddon, which would have negatively impacted schools in a very meaningful way. Now, with a short term solution in place, we’re left without the clarity we’d all like to have for the long term. However, given what has happened, we can make some general observations that will serve us well for at least the remainder of this school year.

With the current bill that has just been signed into law, there is a tremendous lack of clarity on how spending cuts in this legislation will actually impact education. Further, there is no completed deal and the same issues will once again be raised before this temporary reprieve ends on March 30th. The good news is that with this timing, we are likely to get through this educational year (2012-2013) without any major impacts. It is a good idea to complete any technology purchases or additions prior to March 30 if at all possible given the pending recurrence of the fiscal cliff. I wouldn’t be surprised if many school systems “push through” technology purchases this year. It just makes sense.

Listening to the rhetoric and evaluating how key politicians are discussing changes in domestic spending, it appears that there are some trends emerging that may not be wholly positive for technology spending in primary education. One of the key trends may be a focus on loans and grants for college education that could take a larger part of Federal education spending, and may be exacerbated if the total amount of discretionary spending for education is cut. In addition, spending for student centric programs such as Head Start are unlikely to be reduced, creating further pressure on budgets for EdTech.

If the final resolution to the current budget situation results in real cuts to education spending at the Federal level, cities, towns, and school districts may look to state governments to help make up the shortfall that occurs from a reduction of Federal programs. This is problematic on many fronts. First, the majority of state budgets were not in strong shape even prior to the Fiscal Cliff. States such as California, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and Massachusetts are already struggling with large shortfalls and some are looking to cut reimbursements for education expenses in the coming year. The second problem is that cuts from Fiscal Cliff spending reductions are also likely to impact the states as well due to a reduction in the amount of overall aid to individual states. This only exacerbates the problem of looking for state funding. Based on what we know today, increases in state funding for K-12 technology purchases are not likely and may possibly decrease.

The Fiscal Cliff issue has not been solved, just kicked down the road to March 30th, and making firm plans for the future is quite difficult. With the likelihood of some cuts, making technology purchases now can be an important tactic to insure that you don’t end up with IT issues or needs that might not be funded in the future. We will know more going forward, but until there is a long term solution to the Fiscal Cliff in place, it’s best to act tactically, and get what you need while you can.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Locals team up to send bikes to HIV-positive kids

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area man helping children in South Africa who have AIDS is partnering with Mike's Bikes of San Rafael to bring bicycles to the kids so they can raise money to hold camp this year. A Marin County dad is hoping the camp experiences can happen again this year thanks to the new partnership.

The charity Our Fertile Ground provides outings and counseling for kids with AIDS, but can't afford to put on camp again this year. So, some of Fertile Ground's campers will join the internationally-renowned Cape Argus Bicyle Tour in South Africa to raise money and awareness. "I emailed Mike's Bikes and Ken was kind enough to answer our response and we have five bikes now for five of our kids, and we need five more and we'll have ten riders," Fertile Ground co-founder Robert Shea said.

Asked why he is so interested in this, Mike's Bikes founder Ken Martin replied, "We have bike projects in Africa all over that region anyway right now. It's a local guy who is also passionate about Africa and passionate about bikes. It was an easy request to fulfill."

Shea and his wife, AIDS researcher Dr. Jawaya Shea are trying to buy a property at Cape Point to build a permanent campsite for children and families with HIV and AIDS. They live in slums called townships and are all desperately poor. Fertile Ground plans to build a Mike's Bikes sister shop at the campsite. "What I want to do is start a mobile unit with the fathers there, so they'll be able to do bike repairs and then we'll be able to self-sustain our camps," Robert said.

Martin's company, based in San Rafael, will ship the bikes in PODS from any of his company's locations. He's very optimistic about the partnership with Our Fertile Ground. "These five bikes are how we met, but we're hoping to send in thousands of bikes for the community there," Martin said.

Martin has donated 15 bicycles so far.

(Copyright ©2013 KGO-TV/DT.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Odd labels help sell Napa wine

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- Countless revelers will be ringing in the New Year with some champagne or a glass or two of fine wine. For many, picking what wine to drink doesn't always hinge on what's inside the bottle, but what's on the outside. ABC7 took a look at two local wine makers who are all about the labels.

In winter in the Napa Valley, you'll see barren vines surrounded by a blaze of lingering autumn glory. It's a time of year when they are the only segment of the wine industry allowed to be resting. However, two winemakers sure aren't.

After the harvest comes in, the debate begins about what to do with it. At SLO Down Wines Inc., for winemakers Brandon Allen and Bo Silliman, there's a future blend somewhere inside hundreds of small sample bottles.

"Well we have a general idea of what we what it to taste like and what we want the components to be," said Silliman.

They're currently working on a cab inspired, fruit forward wine they intend to call "Love Hammer".

When asked who they were hoping to appeal to with Love Hammer, Allen responds with a laugh, "Hopefully, old women."

The boys from SLO Down Wines have one hit on their resume already. It's a popular, tasty red aimed at their own demographic, a blend they named "Sexual Chocolate". Between marketing and taste, it has caught the attention of some of Napa's more influential wine producers like John Wilkinson from the Bin To Bottle Winery.

"They're cutting edge. I mean, I think they're doing things differently. They're going to shake up the wine world," said Wilkinson.

Despite all of its romantic notions, this is not an easy business. Just because somebody comes up with a good wine, there's no guarantee people will look at it, try it, buy it, or buy it again. Chances are, they're going to need help. Hence the meeting two floors above Downtown St. Helena between the SLO Down Wines winemakers and Dave Phinney. You might not know Dave by his name, but you would know his Orin Swift wines and labels. They're world-renowned.

When asked what a label really needs to say, Phinney said simply, "Pick me up."

Any wine on any shelf in any store is an exercise in Darwinism. Look at some of the names of these wines. You think actors have a hard time getting noticed?

"'The Label.' That's the name of the wine," said Wilkinson.

In fact, the unique label of Sexual Chocolate is one of reasons Phinney elected to work Allen and Silliman.

Silliman read the label off the Sexual Chocolate bottle, "This bottle originated from a bootlegging operation my buddies and I had in college." Allen continues to read, "We use grapes from all over California and we recommend that this be drank immediately and share it with girls." Silliman finishes reading, "When you want more just call us...Bo and Brandon. P.S. Made in USA."

Labeling has become so important that even before the guys finalize the taste of Love Hammer, they're trying out marketing concepts. What you see outside a bottle may, or may not, reflect the contents. And yet, none of this marketing wisdom will be worth a dime if, after a label sells a wine, the taste doesn't bring customers back.

"You don't want to sell one bottle, you want to sell cases of wine," said Wilkinson.

Which, for Allen and Silliman, means they must return back to the bins, back to the daunting trial and error, back to the lab, building a wine that will live up to the Love Hammer name.

(Copyright ©2013 KGO-TV/DT.

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A look back at how SF's Exploratorium came to be

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you want to get a last look at San Francisco's Exploratorium while it's still at the Palace of Fine Arts, you only have one day to do it. The hands-on science museum will reopen at a new home in April. So, for now, admission at the old building is free.

The Palace of Fine Arts was originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It was made to look like an ancient ruin with a huge display hall alongside it. Half a century later, that hall would be reborn as a revolutionary new museum. The man with the idea was Frank Oppenheimer.

"The whole point of the Exploratorium is to make it possible for people to feel they understand the world around them," Oppenheimer said in the 1980 documentary The Day After Trinity. "I think a lot of people have given up with that understanding."

Frank was a brilliant physicist and educator. He died in 1985. But his legacy is intensely alive both in the museum itself and in documentaries, including The Day After Trinity by filmmaker Jon Else.

Frank was the pioneer of the hands-on museum. Instead of 'don't touch the exhibits,' touching them was essential. At first it was a hard sell.

"It was really a new idea," Executive Associate Director Rob Semper said. "He used to carry an exhibit around in the trunk of his car to show people what he meant by a science museum exhibit."

The doors opened in 1969 with no publicity or fanfare.

In those early days, Frank built a lot of the exhibits himself. He made one to show how one pendulum will set another into motion. The exhibit is still on display, and is part of a museum mystery.

"After Frank built it, he came in the next day and he noticed that someone had made little feet to put on the bottom of the pendulums," Semper said. "So they are really cute feet. We don't know to this day who did that."

Over the next four decades the Exploratorium grew up, along with generations of visiting families. Many people now on staff came here as children.

"I have many memories coming here as a kid," said volunteer services department worker Sarah Koik. "Whenever we'd come to the Exploratorium, I would demand more time, and I would demand to come back."

The Exploratorium now has more than a thousand exhibits in its collection and it's an international leader in what's known as "informal" education.

The staff estimates 80 percent of the world's science centers have exhibits developed here. They also run a hugely successful program training and mentoring science teachers. In fact, the museum has done so well it has outgrown its birthplace.

So the Exploratorium is moving to Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront. The massive building renovation is just about finished. Then it will take three and a half months or so to move in the old exhibits and finish a lot of the new ones. The grand opening is in April.

The new space will be very different, but Frank Oppenheimer's dream is still flourishing.

"The Exploratorium really was founded on a kind of optimism," Oppenheimer said in the 1980 documentary The Day After Trinity. "And with the momentum of the Exploratorium, I'm not going to stop, I'm going to maintain that optimism."

written and produced by Jennifer Olney

(Copyright ©2013 KGO-TV/DT.

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Disc golf gaining popularity in the Bay Area

  SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are now more than 160 disc golf courses in California. The sport has been around since the 1970s, but it really took off in the last decade. You may know disc golf as "Frisbee" golf, or you may not know it at all. But we heard it's fun and it's cheap, so Mike Shumann decided to check it out.

When you get your first look at the sport, you might not immediately think "golf." Instead of clubs and a ball, you play with a bag of plastic discs. Think of them as Frisbees on steroids.

"These can go a lot farther," professional disc golfer John Child, said. "Some people have been able to go out and throw these things 600 or 700 feet, longest distance around 800 feet."

The shape and weight of each disc changes the direction and distance it flies. Where "ball" golf has holes, "disc" golf has metal baskets on poles. In both games, players usually start with a long drive and finish with a short putt.

About 100 people turned out for this tournament at Stafford Lake in Marin County. A lot of disc golf courses are wide open spaces, mostly flat. But this one is rugged.

"This place is the toughest disc golf course I've ever played," Lawrence Halili said.

Halili drove up from Southern California to play.

"It was lots of fun; it was just, it's extreme disc golf," he said. "The wind, climbing the hill. Every time you have a bad shot you've got to go down the hill, climb back up the hill. It's not for the meek."

The course goes in and out of the woods with tree branches blocking your view and your disc. No sand traps, but there are other obstacles.

"Stinging nettles and poison oak and blackberry bushes," Rohnert Park resident Greg Goben said.

It's not a country club sport, but it has a growing number of fans.

"I love it, it gets me outside, it gets me into the outdoors, I've probably seen more wildlife doing this sport than just hiking," Goben said.

A lot of disc golf courses are at public parks and they're either free or very low cost. The discs cost about $8-$20, depending how fancy you get. Hard core tournament players show up with lots of high-performance equipment, but beginners don't need much.

Professional disc golfer John Child is ranked twelfth in California. He took ABC7's Mike Shumann out on a course.

"Frisbee was my minor in college, by the way," Shumann said.

Child was not impressed, but he was willing to give Shumann some pointers.

"You're just using your whole body, you know, hips, legs, shoulders, arm and just get all the timing right and eventually you get it to go really far," Child said.

Suffice it to say, Shumann's shots did not go that far, but he did finally get near a basket.

Sometimes the hardest part is finding the disc. At one point, Child's was just under the tree. Shumann's disc was a little farther away.

And then there's the "ring of fire," what happens at the end of the tournament. If your disc lands in the basket you get a prize.

But the biggest winner this day is San Francisco resident Jeff Faes. He beat some of the best in the west and came out on top by one shot.

"Every little bit that you feel yourself getting better you get more addicted to it," Faes said.

The Professional Disc Golf Association estimates 8-12 million people have tried disc golf and about 500,000 play regularly.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

(Copyright ©2013 KGO-TV/DT.

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Safeguard your confidential data by implementing HIPAA Privacy Rule’s De-Identification Standard

A legislative act passed in year 1996, called HIPAA or in other words the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act affected the health care administration. For years, we have researched upon the safety rule along with three types of security safeguards based mainly on technical and physical grounds.

Amongst the above mentioned three safety points, we delved at the administrative safeguards and its obligatory as well as addressable implementation specifications. In this article, we will examine the main key factors pertaining to the technical and physical safeguards of the security rule. The motive of this article is to simplify and state the main concepts of HIPAA Privacy Rule’s De-Identification Standard.

Physical Safeguards

Physical safeguard rule laid by the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s De-Identification Standarddeals with the strategies and procedures required to be implemented in order to control physical admission to systems or devices containing health information and facilities covering electronic records.

It is therefore mandatory to take maximum care when beginning and removing hardware and software that deals with secured Health Information (PHI) from the network. Utmost care must be taken in disposing off any equipment which is on the edge of retirement, so that PHI contained within such systems is not compromised.

Health data stored in the equipment must be controlled and monitored carefully.Access to the hardware and software must be operated by proper trained and authenticated individuals.Make sure that workstations must be situated away from high traffic areas to avoid direct view of the monitor screens to the public.The main person taking the services of contractors and agents must assure that the contractors and agents are professionally trained and are aware of their duties and responsibilities.

Technical Safeguards

Technical security measures deals with factors that require to be executed when transmitting health information electronically over open networks in order to ensure that health information do not go into wrong hands.

Responsible entity must follow a strict procedure to make sure information integrity which includes digital signature, check sum, message confirmation.Execute right methods to confirm that the entity entitle to access the electronic records is the one it claims to be. There are some signs to confirm the same that includes card systems, password systems, giving a return call, and hand showing signsDrafting and maintaining all policies implemented and practices followed for HIPAA Privacy Rule’s De-Identification Standard that needs to be presented as and when required by the compliance auditors.

Implementation Specifications

We cannot ignore with the healthcare compliance, as it becomes essential to safeguard Protected Health Information.

It is required to employ a system that will take utmost care of the health information, for this our heath care providers like doctors, hospitals and health plans must be given a unique identifier. At present most of them are using either tax-id numbers or employer identification number.

The security and privacy rules have laid down certain provisions to assure that the personal records of people is not misused, secured and kept confidential, any person failing to follow the rule will be fined up to $250,000 and possible jail time for severe enough violations by HIPAA. HIPAA rule was indeed designed and created to ease the massive process of health care administration.

emPower is a leading provider of comprehensive Healthcare Compliance Solutions through Learning Management System (LMS). Its mission is to provide innovative security solutions to enable compliance with applicable laws and regulations and maximize business performance. empower provides range of courses to manage compliance required by regulatory bodies such as O.SHA, HIPAA, Joint commission and Red Flag Rule etc. Apart from this emPower also offers custom demos and tutorials for your website, business process management and software implementation.

Its Learning Management system (LMS) allows students to retrieve all the courses 24/7/365 by accessing the portal. emPower e-learning training program is an interactive mode of learning that guides students to progress at their own pace.

For additional information, please visit

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