Access to instant information has infiltrated our society and is a seamless part of personal and professional live. Most careers from artist to mechanics to engineers depend on digital resources for communication, marketing, budgeting and simply to conduct business.

“Providing deeper learning experiences for students requires transforming teaching,” shares Carla Wade, a digital learning specialist with the Oregon Department of Education and also board chair of State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). Wade explains that shift means “learning to include digital instructional materials to best meet the ever-changing individual and personal needs of students in the digital age.” 

Just how do education systems move from print to digital? The path is not uniform; there are many variables for school, district and state leaders to consider as they transition from the classic, print materials to digital learning environments.

Understanding state policies and procurement processes can be challenging and potentially detour leaders from taking a leap from paper to digital. Recent research revealed that there have been major shifts in state policy to support digital learning, as more states are requiring the implementation of digital instructional materials in the next five years. Legislators are now recognizing the benefits of digital learning and the new demand for instructional materials that are available to 21st century learners via devices anywhere, anytime.

In addition, detailed information and guidance on the digital instructional materials acquisition process is included since digital instructional materials cannot be purchased in a vacuum. Most importantly, leaders must consider essential conditions prior to jumping from print to digital content:

1. Essential conditions

Support the essential conditions necessary for the successful acquisition and implementation of digital instructional materials for successful digital learning.

2. Leadership

State and local leadership is vital for developing a shared vision, empowering leaders and cultivating a culture of collaboration and innovation for digital learning environments.

3. Equity of access

Both high-speed broadband and device access, in and out of school, are critical to fully implementing digital instructional materials to meet college and career goals.

4. Accessibility for all students

Providing accessibility for all students must be a consideration when acquiring, developing and implementing digital instructional materials.

5. Interoperability considerations

The acquisition of complementary systems that work together is a necessary condition to efficiently implement digital instructional materials and resources and maximize the benefits of those resources.

6. Student data and privacy

Developing and enforcing policies that supplement federal laws to protect the privacy, security and confidentiality of student data is critical.

Overall, changing an educational system that has existed for centuries is no simple task. Parents, students, teachers, administrators and policy makers all need to embrace the shift so that learners are able to experience the same access to digital content both in and outside of the classroom to best prepare them for college and careers in the digital age. Ensuring that the essential elements have been met, procurement transparency and flexible budgeting will provide the ability to transform learning in the digital age.