Four Common Mistakes in Online Curriculum

Kriste Solomon Editing Tips, Grammar

A year of COVID-19 has meant a year of schools closing, opening, and closing and opening again, as well as teachers and administrators being ready to pivot on a moment’s notice to virtual learning. Online curriculum has been produced at a higher volume than ever before, much of it being for consumption (if not for sale) through Google Classroom, school newsletters, and, of course, social media. 

It’s often assumed that teachers and professors—even in math and science—should have basic grammar and spelling skills, regardless of their area of expertise. And while they may certainly be experts in both their subject matter and general rules of punctuation and grammar, editing is just one more item added to an overwhelming task list for educators and curriculum developers. It’s easy for small mistakes to slip through and then (the horror!) live forever on the Internet.

It’s incredibly important to not tarnish a reputation with grammatical errors, misspellings, and misinformation. Here are the four most common errors that we see slip through in curriculum editing.

Misspellings

Misspellings are distracting at higher levels of education and downright harmful at primary and elementary grades. Whether a note is sent home encouraging students to complete their “Midweek Memiors” or a teacher urges her online class to watch the presidential “innaguration” or write a report on the Mars Rover “Perserverance,” errors like these can be confusing for young learners, imprinting the mistake before they learn the correct spelling. At higher grade levels or college levels and in published articles or curriculum, misspellings and other inaccuracies make the writer appear uneducated and detract from his or her credibility.

Homophones

Consider there vs. their and whose vs. who’s. Mistakes like these frequently appear in online assessments, distracting students and even affecting their test outcomes.  

Take this real-life example. In a timed test, the learner was asked who named Lewis and Clark’s expedition the “Corpse” of Discovery. Even if the tester knew that Thomas Jefferson named the Corps of Discovery, the mistake wasted precious minutes as the student tried to decide what was meant by “corpse”—minutes that could have been spent on other test questions.

A simple curriculum error can result in students being baffled by test questions such as: Who named the Lewis and Clark expedition the 'Corpse' of Discovery? Click To Tweet

The sneaky thing about homophones is that they aren’t often caught by spell-check. Some programs are getting better at this (Word especially), but you can’t guarantee that the computer will notice that you meant “corps.” And the longer a writer works on a project, the less likely he or she will notice the problem. 

Punctuation

Improper punctuation is another very common issue in education that can affect comprehension. Educators should pick a style guide and stick with it for consistency, leading to less confusion down the road.

Recently, in its pre-published stage, a school newsletter featured “Mr. Ness’ class’s science project.” A paragraph a few pages over referenced “Mr. Ness’s students’ work.” The school secretary was understandably unsure which was right, and the inconsistency would have demonstrated a lack of attention to detail.

As a recent Scribe Source blog about possessives pointed out, it’s not only the grammar rules, but also the style, that matters. In the case of the teacher’s name, both options are accepted forms, though the addition of the s is becoming increasingly more popular: Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, and APA recommend adding the s, but AP Stylebook still considers it okay to include only the apostrophe. Whichever style is chosen, the important thing with these types of grammar issues is making sure there is consistency and agreement throughout the document.

Misinformation

It’s no secret that fact-checking is a greater necessity these days than ever before. The Internet contains an abundance of misinformation, and it’s often hard to separate verified facts from unsubstantiated rumors.

Misinformation in curriculum can detract from the established credibility of an educational site. Ensure accuracy with an external editorial review. Click To Tweet

Part of a teacher’s job is addressing misconceptions—not adding to them. This means sources, dates, names, titles, and other details need to be checked for accuracy. If the material will be published in a blog, educational site, or journal, fact-checking is even more important to establish credibility. 

Tips for Error-Free Curriculum

Editing is usually the last thing in an educator’s mind while writing. He or she is usually focused on just getting the information down, not on the nitty-gritty details. And that’s okay—that’s what editing is for. 

While word processing software, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, usually has built-in, show-as-you-go help for spelling and grammar, you can also download other, more powerful apps or extensions. Some of these, such as Grammarly or Slick Write, are free, while some might be available for a small fee. These tools can help you check as you go for common errors. 

Another trick for catching errors in smaller projects is just to wait a few hours—or overnight—and then reread the text. Taking a step back and looking with fresh eyes will be immensely helpful for spotting errors. Asking a colleague or partner to proofread it is also a great idea, as it brings a level of objectivity a writer can’t achieve.

Hiring a professional editor is a great way to safeguard an educator’s work. The Scribe Source has a great team of proofreading and editing experts, including several with backgrounds in education and curriculum editing. Let us do the detailed work of polishing and making your curriculum ready for publishing. Contact us today for a consultation!

 

About the Author

Reared by an English-teacher father, Kriste was diagramming sentences, learning obscure etymologies, and memorizing lists of prepositions at an early age. She is hardworking and thorough and specializes in curriculum editing, manuscript development, and Shakespearean insults. Kriste joined the Scribe Source team in 2017.