IE Not suppported

Sorry, but Internet Explorer is no longer supported.

For the best D2L.com experience, it's important to use a modern browser.

To view the D2L.com website, please download another browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Illinois Virtual School

Scaling up to support schools online


Illinois Virtual School helps schools respond to the COVID-19 emergency with customized online summer programs

At a glance

Client: Illinois Virtual School
Learners: 4,750 original credit students, 700 credit recovery students
Industry: K-12 education
Visit Website

Download the PDF

Platform/Features

  • D2L’s Brightspace platform
  • Quick Eval
  • Grade Book
  • Daylight Experience

Interviewee

  • Danielle Lewis, Coordinator of Professional Learning

Highlights

  • Trained 11 new teachers in a matter of weeks, as the number of enrollments doubled
  • Onboarded four new schools, providing customized programs for thousands of new students
  • Empowered schools to implement new grading policies to protect students from educational harm
Illinois Virtual School Logo

School

When schools across the state closed due to COVID-19, Illinois Virtual School (IVS) saw its enrollment double almost overnight. Using D2L’s Brightspace platform, IVS was able to train 11 new teachers within weeks and provide tailored solutions to help schools across Illinois replace their face-to-face summer programs with engaging online courses.

"One school alone wanted to enroll more than 1,000 new students in our summer program. And each school had different requirements, so we had to provide customized solutions. That was a huge challenge, and we had to solve it practically overnight."

Danielle Lewis, Coordinator of Professional Learning

Challenge

Responding to a huge increase in demand

Illinois Virtual School (IVS) is a supplemental program that partners with educational communities to provide access to quality courses. The organization works with over 200 schools throughout Illinois and has historically focused on providing students with access to courses that their main school can’t offer, as well as enabling them to take additional courses or recover missing credits by studying at home or during the summer.

“We recently had one student taking AP courses with us, and she’s just been accepted to Columbia University,” says Danielle Lewis, Coordinator of Professional Learning at IVS. “And another student
just achieved the three credits he needed to catch up in English, so he’ll be able to graduate with the rest of his class this year.

“We also get a lot of students who want to take required courses such as consumer economics, health education, and civics during the summer, so they can free up their schedule next semester to take an AP class, or learn a world language, or maybe join the band at their school. Band is huge in my hometown!”

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, IVS suddenly needed to redefine its role. With schools closed, parents began reaching out to IVS to provide supplementary teaching for their children. Moreover, four large suburban schools asked IVS to help them run their summer programs. As a result, summer enrollments in both IVS’ original credit and credit recovery courses almost doubled, from around 2,800 in 2019 to over 5,450 in 2020.

“We had to hire and train 11 new teachers to support the schools who were coming to us,” says Danielle Lewis. “One school alone wanted to enroll more than 1,000 new students in our summer program. And each school had different requirements, so we had to provide customized solutions. That was a huge challenge, and we had to solve it practically overnight.”

pencils on e-learning keyboard

Solution

Creating customized solutions to meet schools’ needs

IVS realized that it needed a combination of technology and dedicated effort from its teachers and administrators to deliver the right solution for each school and every student.

To help with the technology side, the organization reached out to its long-term partner, D2L.

“We have a monthly meeting with the D2L team, and they are fantastic,” says Danielle Lewis. “The support they provide is amazing. Every time we need something, they help us come up with a solution.” In particular, IVS was looking for a way to manage the sudden influx of enrollments from its new school partners. Using D2L’s Brightspace platform, the IVS administrators were able to create tailored course content and processes for each group of students.

“From an administrative point of view, Brightspace was outstanding,” comments Danielle Lewis. “It enabled us to set up different sections for different schools. And the flexibility of creating individualized sections of courses based on a master course is excellent.”

The platform’s versatility was especially useful when Illinois issued new guidelines around grading, which aimed to protect all students from educational harm during the closure of the schools. Schools wanted to implement this policy in different ways, and Brightspace made it possible to group students and grade them in line with their school’s interpretation of the guidelines.

On the teaching side, IVS also used the Brightspace platform to create professional development courses to train its 11 new teachers and get them up to speed within weeks.

“The Brightspace Daylight Experience templates are fantastic for professional development,” says Danielle Lewis. “They’re easily editable and they’re interactive, so the learner is always playing an active role. They’re also helping us scale up our professional development: once you’ve created one course, you can use it as a template to build similar courses very quickly.”

She also calls out the Quick Eval feature as an example of how D2L’s platform helps teachers work more productively with large numbers of students:

“Quick Eval provides a nice flow where a teacher can see all the assignments that need to be graded, grade them within the tool, and send the results on to the grade book automatically. It’s a wonderful, seamless way for our teachers to evaluate student work—it saves so much time.”

"Brightspace was outstanding,” comments Danielle Lewis. “It enabled us to set up different sections for different schools. And the flexibility of creating individualized sections of courses based on a master course is excellent."

Danielle Lewis, Coordinator of Professional Learning

Result

Building on success

Adapting to the needs of new schools and thousands of new students has required a lot of hard work and dedication from the IVS team. The flexibility, ease of use, and reliability of the Brightspace platform have helped them succeed.

“Our schools need customized solutions, and we are meeting those needs thanks to Brightspace,” says Danielle Lewis. “Moreover, we have had absolutely zero downtime with Brightspace, even when our enrollments doubled to almost 5,000 for this summer term.”

As a result, IVS aims to build on the new partnerships it has established with schools throughout the state. “One school lost their AP Spanish teacher midway through the year, and they were really impressed with our ability to step in and take over that whole program for them,” recalls Danielle Lewis. “As a result, they decided to continue working with us over the summer, and we hope to maintain the same type of ongoing relationship with the other schools that have come to us this year.”

Since the future of face-to-face schooling is still uncertain, schools may need all the help they can get from organizations like IVS in adapting to a new normal. “What happens if schools need to close again this fall or winter?” asks Danielle Lewis. “If that’s the case, we want to be able to support them for as long as it takes. D2L can help us scale up really quickly and define what our teaching environment should look like, whatever the future holds.”

Need more information?

Would you like to talk to a real person? Pull up a chair and we'll put on some coffee.

Let's talk