Using a school or district LMS to advance student learning has become fairly commonplace. In fact, 50% of respondents to the “2018-19 State of Digital Learning in K-12 Education” report said they were using this type of edtech.
The widespread adoption of LMS reflects the growing comfort of educators to use the platform in their instruction. This is good news for schools and districts, as they can use their LMS for student learning and professional development.
We work as instructional technology PD specialists for the Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in central New York, a unique education organization established to help public schools control costs and provide quality programs by sharing services. The Broome-Tioga BOCES serves 15 school districts that represent 35,000 students in Broome and Tioga counties.
We began a couple of years ago to integrate PD opportunities into Schoology, the LMS for our member schools. We had seen our teachers become adept at using the platform to teach and engage students, and we wondered if we could offer PD on the same LMS. Asking teachers to learn in one environment and students to learn in another just doesn’t make sense.
The result has been a huge success for our school districts, providing five benefits:
Appreciable cost savings: Offering programs online is usually less expensive than hosting in-person workshops, seminars and conferences.
There are no costs for travel, meals or overnight stays, or for substitutes who take over classrooms for absent teachers. Moreover, traditional offerings for PD are not scalable, and they are difficult to standardize across schools, districts or states.
Course variety: We’ve seen district leaders offer numerous courses to their teachers, which is not always possible with in-person PD for logistical reasons. With more course options, educators can better personalize their learning to their own interests, needs and student populations.
Continuous support: In a typical workshop setting, it’s difficult to follow up with attendees, especially since we work with so many different school districts. Our LMS, on the other hand, enables us to give participants ongoing support and to create relationships that can be sustained over time. Part of that support is access to online communities that are built around common interests, grade levels and course subjects. Online communities provide a collaborative environment for teachers to interact with and learn from other teachers around the country.
Asking teachers to learn in one environment and students to learn in another just doesn’t make sense.
Convenience: Teachers can learn at their own pace and at times that fit their schedules, and by using on preferred electronic devices. And they can find all the PD resources they need in a single location.
Experience: Perhaps most important, teachers gain a more in-depth understanding of how the LMS works in the real world, and through that interaction, they can apply it to their own courses and student lessons.
It gives teachers the opportunity to experience the LMS from their students’ perspective. Teachers become more comfortable with the LMS and then use it in the classroom to enhance learning and address student needs.
We understand that there will be some hiccups when integrating PD into an existing LMS. While teachers are getting more comfortable with using advanced technology and are understanding its advantages, there are still those who are resistant to change. It can take time and effort to educate everyone.
We saw this when we introduced Schoology as our LMS, and we’re seeing it, to some degree, as we offer more of our PD on the platform. But the huge benefits to our students, teachers and administrators are turning even our most reluctant staff members into believers.
Dustin Andrus is an instructional technology integrator and PD specialist and Rick Bray is an instructional technology PD specialist for the Broome-Tioga BOCES in Binghamton, New York.