A technology committee was established to look at online learning from a college-wide perspective. Lakeland had been using an LMS previously, but college administration was exploring other options for next generation learning management. The technical committee brought forward the Brightspace platform as a top replacement candidate, attracted by the platform’s interactivity, style sheets, and user-friendly interface. “Our students are not terribly tech-savvy,” explains Kelly Mazerolle, an instructor in the Early Learning and Child Care program. “The online learning system needed to be really easy and intuitive for them to use.”
Simulations help students experience real-life scenarios online
In the face-to-face Early Learning and Child Care diploma program, students at Lakeland spend 11 weeks in class studying theory, followed by 4 weeks in practicum. As part of the practicum, students run a play program for children. They are tasked with transforming two college classrooms into suitable child care settings–one for infant/toddlers and the other for pre-school aged children. Members of the community drop their children off to participate in sessions.
One of the challenges Lakeland faced in moving their early learning certificate and diploma programs online was to duplicate this practicum experience for distance learning students who never set foot on campus. “We needed to find a way to mirror the experience of setting up a classroom and interacting with children and parents virtually so our online students could have that important practicum experience,” explains McDonald. In discussions with D2L, it was determined that a simulated experience delivered through Brightspace was the way to go.
To build the online simulation, McDonald and Mazerolle sat down with the Brightspace Creative Services team to help them translate the real-life world of early childhood education into an engaging, interactive online learning experience. Students online would be presented with the same kinds of challenges and situations they would face in a real life day-care setting. The team met weekly with D2L to refine the simulation and make it as realistic as possible–right down to addressing diversity in the staff, parents, and children.
Blown away by student engagement
The Brightspace platform offers students collaboration tools and discussion forums
where they can connect with each other to share their knowledge and experiences. “When we first launched the simulation, I did a run through with the pilot group of 20 students to see how well they were engaging,” says McDonald. “After the first day and 150 posts later, I was blown away. The response was overwhelming.”
Parcel-sized learning helps non-traditional students thrive
With the majority of students entering the Human Services online programming coming from non-traditional backgrounds, it was critical that Brightspace offer parcel-sized learning to not overwhelm a student who is juggling learning with family and work commitments. Over the 11 weeks they are “in school,” students are led through the online course content a little bit at a time, supported and prompted by Brightspace through friendly reminders. Students are encouraged to use the Dropbox tool to submit videos and photos of their interactions with children to show instructors how they are applying their knowledge in their jobs.