IELA ( selected Illumina Interactive and Harvard Graduate School of Education as their 2021 Winner for ELearning in the Academic Division. The winning project was “Promotion or Retention: A Dilemma in Educational Ethics.” This was a collaborative effort led by Professor Meira Levinson at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; for the project, Illumina worked with HGSE to design and develop a novel interactive 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 Illumina/HGSE entry was judged the best among entries from all over the world.

The case unfolds at the end of the school year, and 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 “meet” Ada, examine her school records and written work, review information about her classmates and school district, explore wisdom and research from the field, and participate directly in a simulated teacher meeting. Users reflect on the case based on their own ethical values and record their reflections in a personalized journal. They are actively engaged throughout the case: selecting their role, sorting 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 case is driven by a rich visual and audio narrative that incorporates images, videos, text, graphics, and audio stories to immerse users in an authentic setting. It is fully accessible, complying with 508/WCAG guidelines, and provides numerous resources, including a FAQ on the US education system, to support a global user base. The program is designed to depict the kind of real-world dilemma 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. The online resource can be used in either a fully self-paced 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 course has been adopted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a core component within its “Equity and Opportunity” foundational course. 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. One of the largest school districts in the country is using the program in district-wide professional development.