Australian public secondary school, Wodonga Middle Years College (WMYC), successfully transitioned its entire student body to remote learning in response to COVID-19 restrictions, with the Brightspace learning management system (LMS) keeping learners engaged and motivated while maintaining academic progress.
In early April, the Victorian Government announced that all students who could learn from home must do so. When the announcement was made, WMYC was well equipped. Staff and teachers had been preparing to deliver the entire learning program online through D2L’s Brightspace learning platform since mid-March – when the first cases of coronavirus forced schools across the state to go into lockdown.
Located on the Victoria-NSW border, WMYC had already been using the Brightspace platform since 2016 to create a personalised learning environment and encourage continuous engagement among its students. Despite the head start, Steve Fouracre, Assistant Principal at WMYC, said shifting the entire student cohort to remote learning in response to a crisis was daunting.
“We were forced into a situation where we had to enable 900 students to learn remotely, it was unprecedented and we relied heavily on our LMS to make the transition,” he said. “It’s the first time in more than 150 years education has been delivered differently in Australia.”
Fouracre said that by leveraging key tools of the D2L Brightspace platform, and integrating with various third-party applications, WMYC faculty were able to develop courses that ensured students maintained their academic progress despite the disruption.
“Initially, a lot of our teachers thought students may go backwards during this period as it was so disruptive,” he said. “But looking back at the assessment data, it’s clear our kids weren’t disadvantaged despite not being in the classroom. Numeracy and literacy were our highest priorities and all our students across all our year levels moved forward in their learning during this time.”
Fouracre said there were a number of key factors that contributed to the success during the enforced remote learning period.
“Being able to build courses on the platform that kept students engaged with dynamic content, frequent feedback, and the ability to discuss concepts kept our kids connected despite being in isolation,” he said. “As difficult as this period was for students, it was just as unknown for our teachers – they did an amazing job working together on building course content and supporting each other to really make a difference in our student’s lives.”
- Metrics. WMYC experienced up to 2000 log ins to the Brightspace platform per day from a student body of only 900, showing students were revisiting course content later in the day after classes had finished: “The numbers were amazing to see because it shows that despite being completely remote and independent, the students were actively engaged in their own learning. It’s made a lot of us teachers reconsider our own thinking around how to build courses and use the learning platform to give students more agency over their own learning,” Fouracre said.
- Feedback. Providing continuous feedback was a key strategy WMYC employed to keep students motivated – particularly through the use of rubrics published on D2L’s platform: “We had a really strong focus on feedback and feedforward models so our students had very clear expectations of what the assessment would be. As Brightspace integrated with DropBox, students could submit their work daily and our teachers would provide written feedback – regardless of whether you’re a child or adult, if your work isn’t acknowledged there’s no motivation to keep going, so for us feedback was critical,” Fouracre said.
- Discussion. By using the Discussions tool in Brightspace, WMYC set up forums where students and teachers could discuss course content. “We wanted our students to build a sense of community online so we used the Discussions tool a lot through our courses. We didn’t just want to continually push out content, we wanted learners to feel connected – both with each other, and the teachers,” Fouracre said.
- Release Conditions. Particularly for English classes, WMYC used the platform’s Release Conditions to ensure individual experiences for learners. “With remote learning, we didn’t want teachers pushing out lessons if the students weren’t ready. Release Conditions added an element of gamification to the experience where learners need to reach a certain level before they unlock the next part of the class,” Fouracre said.
- Dynamic Content. The Brightspace platform’s ability to build courses including video, audio, image, and text meant teachers could experiment with multiple types of content to see what kept students most engaged. “All our teachers were doing things they’ve never done before, filming videos and voice recordings and sending them out to the students for feedback on what type of content worked best. It’s made students see teachers in a new light – they saw teachers reaching out, connecting with them, and as people who really care about them,” Fouracre said.
“COVID-19 forced schools across Australia to not only rapidly transition to remote learning, but also to re-assess assumptions and preconceptions in relation to student wellness, learning success and how to support teachers and parents.” said Tony Maguire, Regional Director APAC at D2L. “WMYC is successfully navigating this transition through thoughtful and informed leadership. By providing their community with the right tools to support remote learning, students can successfully reach their learning goals despite the unprecedented disruptions.”
Brightspace is a cloud-based learning platform built by educators, for educators that works on any device. It’s secure, worry-free technology that puts customers first — allowing you to create engaging courses within your existing technology to fit your unique needs. With Brightspace, you can easily set up individualized learning paths for your students, keep them on track with automated nudges, provide them with personalized feedback and increase their engagement through gamification, social tools, video and other powerful features. To learn more, visit the Higher Education and K-12 pages on our website.
D2L believes learning is the foundation upon which all progress and achievement rests. Working closely with organizations globally, D2L has transformed the way millions of people learn online and in the classroom. Learn more about D2L for schools, higher education and businesses at www.D2L.com.
Nermin Bajric, Watterson for D2L, +61 2 9929 7533, firstname.lastname@example.org