About Harvard GSE

The Harvard Graduate School of Education is an impact-focused professional graduate school that is working to improve opportunities and outcomes for all learners by engaging the field to put powerful ideas into practice. HGSE does this by preparing education leaders, researchers, and innovators; generating knowledge to improve outcomes; and communicating, convening, and partnering with the field. For more than 100 years, the Harvard Graduate School of Education has prepared talented, passionate individuals to become transformative leaders in education.


Dealing with realistic situations and applying concepts in Educational Ethics

Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) wanted a multimedia case study designed to help teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors, and students in education and in philosophy grapple with key concepts and dilemmas in educational ethics. The primary audience is adult learners with backgrounds in education and the social sciences — teachers, school principals, district leaders and administrators, guidance counselors, and staff

who work in support roles in education, such as counselors. A significant secondary audience is undergraduate and graduate students who are training for teaching, school and district leadership, counseling, and other educational roles. Some learners may be international, may have disabilities, and may be non-native English speakers.

“Working with Michael, Jason, and the entire Illumina team has been a joy from start to finish. They took a vision that we had sketched out on paper and turned it into an incredible learning experience that is visually rich and beautifully designed, totally intuitive to learners of all ages, deeply engaging, and fully accessible. They have remained totally committed partners as we have experimented with different learning platforms, delivery models, and models for capturing data; their technical expertise and creativity are unparalleled, and I hope to continue working with them for years to come.”


Meira Levinson, Ph.D.
Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education


A complex and interactive experience to allow learners to apply concepts in a realistic case

“Promotion or Retention” is a collaborative project led by Professor Meira Levinson at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), expanding on her highly acclaimed work in Dilemmas of Educational Ethics (Harvard Education Press, 2016) and JusticeinSchools.org. For the project, Illumina worked with HGSE to design and develop a novel multimedia case study designed to help teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors, and students in education and in philosophy grapple with key concepts and dilemmas in educational ethics. Users are responsible for deciding whether “Ada,” a fictitious over-age but underachieving 8th grader, should be retained in 8th grade, promoted to 9th grade, or sent to an alternative school. To make the decision, users examine Ada’s school records and written work, review information about her classmates and school district, encounter wisdom from the field, assess relevant research, and participate directly in a simulated teacher meeting. Users also record their reflections in a personalized journal.

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Users are actively engaged in the case throughout: selecting a role, sorting and explaining and revisiting their ethical values, choosing pathways for further inquiry, reflecting on the diverse views and information they encounter, and making interim and final decisions about Ada’s future. The resource can be used in a fully online or blended format, and can be completed either asynchronously or synchronously, individually or in groups, and either as a stand-alone learning experience or as a lead-in to group discussion.

The case is driven by a rich visual and audio narrative that incorporates images, videos, text, graphics, and audio stories to immerse users in authentic settings and choices. It is fully accessible and provides multiple supports, including a FAQ on the US education system, to support a global user base. The program is designed to reflect real-world situations faced by educational professionals, while also presenting concepts, data, and skills that are central to ethical decision-making in a wide array of educational contexts.

While the course is being delivered via standard university learning management systems and learner records tracked using SCORM 2004, Illumina and HGSE have developed a secure external ASP.NET/SQL Server-based database system whereby highly detailed learner data is tracked for subsequent analysis. This analysis can be done by instructors and facilitators in educational ethics courses, where they can set up diverse groups of students based on the decisions the students made while running through the course, their values prioritizations, or their level of confidence at specific decision points in the program. HGSE also plans on using this data for future research in educational ethics.

IELA2021-WinnerUpdate September 24, 2021: Selected as the Winner in the E-Learning Category of the 2021 International E-Learning Awards – Academic Division, given by the International E-Learning Association!

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A core component of Harvard Master's students while simultaneously deployed in universities and school districts across the United States

The course has been adopted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a core component within its “Equity and Opportunity” foundational course, which is required for 650 Master’s students annually. The program has been piloted and deployed in Massachusetts, Maine, Illinois, North Carolina, and Colorado, under a

wide array of conditions and with a wide variety of users, from university professors to district administrators and even Middle School students. Feedback has been uniformly outstanding. One of the largest school districts in the country is using the program in district-wide professional development.