At Maine Virtual Academy, we’re very focused on building accessible, personalized learning for our diverse student population.
We have students who live in remote areas where internet bandwidth is limited. We have students whose home computer is a smartphone. We have students who have to fit their education around work or family responsibilities. And we have students who use assistive technology such as screen readers. As a public charter school, we have a profound responsibility to provide the best possible education to all these students and the best possible service to their families.
Since everyone has different needs and learns in different ways, we focus on a continuous cycle of assessment, instruction and remediation that allows us to identify areas where students need more personalized support. We can then build course content in a way that addresses those needs.
For the past couple of years, we’ve been using D2L Brightspace as our learning management system, and it’s really helped to support our data-driven approach—our administrators love the custom reports in Data Hub, for example. However, despite all the templates that D2L provides, teachers initially found course creation quite time-consuming. It took a lot of effort and imagination to build engaging content.
I’m a science teacher, and I created all the content for our high-school science curriculum. When I first started using Brightspace, I was spending a long time copy-pasting elements from one template to another. The result was that I used the same elements again and again in all my courses—it was the quickest and easiest thing to do.
Then, D2L showed us Creator+, and I really loved it. Instead of searching for code and copy-pasting it into your templates, you can just click a button, choose your element, and everything you need is right there. It’s so much easier, saves so much time, and it encourages you to use a wider variety of elements to present information.
That’s important, because variety doesn’t just make your courses more visually interesting for students, it helps them see the content in a different way. Using accordions and carousels can make a simple list of items much more engaging, especially for visual learners. As a science teacher, I’m really excited about the new hot spot element, where you can prompt students to click on different areas of an image or diagram to learn more about a topic. For example, in biology, I can show students a picture of a cell and have them click on all the different organelles.
Creator+ is great for accessibility too because it allows us to embed almost any type of content into our course templates. That means we’re not sending students to different platforms or different websites—everything is there within the Brightspace interface. That ease of navigation is super important because it removes technical barriers and distractions. It helps our students to focus on the learning.
We also use Creator+ practice activities to allow students to test themselves and get immediate feedback on a topic, outside the formal assessment process. This is great for building confidence, because students know they can check how well they’ve understood something without worrying about wrong answers affecting their grades.
So far, the results have been amazing. Looking at the courses I’ve built with Creator+, the completion rate is around 80%, compared to an average of about 35% for other courses. So, we’re clearly doing something right!
As a result, we’ve decided we’re going to build all our new courses in Creator+ from now on and convert our existing teacher-created content over to it too. We really think it will streamline the online learning experience and boost engagement for all our students, and we’re excited to do more with Creator+.
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