Through an agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Education, Brightspace is available to school boards across the province to support online and blended learning programs. The London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) is one board taking full advantage of the program and is now extending its use of Brightspace to leverage the Learning Management System (LMS) for the delivery of professional learning curriculum to staff, teachers, and principals.
Professional Learning for Teachers on the Move
The LDCSB supports over 18,000 students across various counties. In part due to the large geographic area it serves, the LDCSB has more teachers working on a part-time and supply basis than ever before. This transient teaching workforce often transitions between schools and is creating new training challenges for the LDCSB.
“Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we must ensure our teachers and staff members think, practice, and feel a personal responsibility for occupational health and safety,” says Jon McGoey, a teacher at John Paul II Catholic Secondary School and Curriculum Leader with LDCSB. “In the past, teachers ‘belonged’ to a school and health and safety training (and the tracking of successful completion of training) would have fallen to the principal. But with more of our teachers working part-time and moving between schools, responsibility for administering and tracking health and safety compliance shifted from the school principal to the board–a big undertaking when you consider the board employs thousands of teachers. It was taking half of a person’s job at the board office to track completion rates and it was a real nightmare to administer,” he adds.
As a result, the board needed a new, more efficient way to deliver professional learning curriculum to staff.
From Disconnected Tools to a Complete LMS Platform
Originally LDCSB used a variety of disconnected tools to deliver mandated training, such as workplace health and safety training, to their staff. Completion and compliance were tracked in a spreadsheet. However, with the Ontario government program in place, the LDCSB took the opportunity to leverage Brightspace. They were able to replace their existing mix of tools with a single platform.
“Our teachers were using different tools for their professional learning than they were for teaching,” explains Ed Clark, Coordinator of Innovative and Collaborative Technology Services for the LDCSB. “By using Brightspace within the classroom and for staff professional learning, we create more alignment and give our educators the opportunity to experience Brightspace as a learner. This creates familiarity with the platform and a greater understanding among our teachers for the need for clarity and regular feedback. As educators, we may not always see the importance of this kind of ongoing communication, but as learners we can readily see the gaps in a student’s experience.”
100% Familiarity with Brightspace
Clark believes using Brightspace to deliver workplace safety compliance courses and track teachers’ successful completion also guarantees board-wide familiarity with the platform. “We have 3,000+ staff and it’s required by the Ontario government that everyone complete the Worker Health and Safety Awareness (WHSA) training. This means 100% of our staff have to log into Brightspace to complete the course. Not all of our staff members are in front of the classroom, and a number of our employees had never heard of Brightspace. Now everyone is aware of the platform.”
Principals are Students Too
Principals within the LDCSB are also heading back to “school” using Brightspace for their professional learning. Principal Daniel P. Howard of John Paul II Catholic Secondary School recently created the first course in what he hopes will be an online professional learning curriculum aimed at fellow supervisors.
Howard has been asked to present the course approach to all principals province-wide, and sees the benefit of having an LMS backbone to expand the reach of supervisory courses. “I think this is just the beginning in our learning of how to leverage Brightspace to have more courses like this one, where we are able to convey a process behind the principles, delivered online in a highly efficient way,” says Howard.
To date, almost 100% of staff across the LDCSB have successfully completed their WHSA training using Brightspace. Using the platform for compliance-related training has saved board staff, school secretaries, and principals time otherwise spent chasing down compliance among staff and teachers. Furthermore, the compliance training has given teachers and principals far greater exposure to the platform. This familiarity has led to a 2.5X increase in Brightspace use in the classroom.
The board is now looking to move its professional learning efforts past compliance to use Brightspace to deliver the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP). NTIP is curriculum required by the Ontario Ministry of Education targeted at new teachers transitioning into the profession.
As for Howard’s supervisory course content, principals across the board can now access the materials through Brightspace. The ability to take the course online has reduced the need for costly in-service days. Howard has hopes that the course, which has been well-received by his principal counterparts in the London area, will be approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education for use province-wide. Hopefully it will allow more supervisors to benefit from knowledge sharing delivered through Brightspace.
 Information courtesy of London District Catholic School Board
 Results courtesy of London District Catholic School Board