You’ve been told to shut your school down and shift your students, teachers, staff and curriculum online. Is that realistic? Here is some advice from someone who has been in education for 30+ years, built online products and implemented programs in large online schools.
The “Black Swan” crisis that is challenging how we do almost everything exposes weaknesses in operations and systems but also creates opportunities. I have a client that has been charged to accomplish the daunting task of shutting down their schools for an unknown amount of time but keeping the learning going. I’ve helped them meet this challenge but watched them struggle with basic issues like students and families who do not have internet and a lack of standardization across their schools of software stacks and curriculum. This challenging time will pass – what should they be thinking about to prepare for the next pandemic or other crisis?
Pockets of excellence, standardization and more. There will always be master teachers who are cherished gems in our schools. They create and represent the best in teaching but present a challenge because they are not easy to replicate! The outstanding is usually not average and the common is not outstanding. The most common way to create uniformity and scale it through standardizing. It is critical, in fact, to standardize what is taught, how it may be taught, and what tools are used for learning.
To standardize online learning requires tools that many districts have not fully implemented like online curricula, common learning systems (LMSs), student information systems (SiSs), and catalogs of aligned lessons (LORs, CMSs, other repositories). I could write ad nauseum about how standardization is the key to scaling your best results to the online environment. While standardizing is key, it is not the only critical factor. While being necessary, it is not sufficient.
Having an efficient, harmonious online school where robust learning occurs requires the software platforms used to fit together as precisely as your school buildings. Think of it in this way: what are the digital foundations for your experiences? For example, do grades seemlessly flow from a computer-graded quiz to the overall gradebook and grades update into a SiS? There is a graduate school-level word for this: interoperability. I could write the formal definition here but the concept is summarized by the following question: does your software, hardware, systems and other components of your experience work together efficiently and effectively? If you have online courses from different providers, multiple LMSs, an untidy or incomplete CMS and repositories, then you may have great standardization and still be suffering.
What are the successes you are experiencing as you tackle this challenging time and providing online experiences? What are areas for growth and opportunity? In my work I work with specific packages of tools and interoperability standards such as WCAG 2.1. If you have questions I would be happy to spend a free, 30 min session with you and your key professionals to understand your challenges and suggest a way forward. These next weeks will be interesting and challenge and will usher in the chance for education to evolve. I am here to help. I end most of my blogs with a video that is either interesting, humorous, or both. I hope you enjoy the video below and do not find that these are metaphors for your digital systems!