Delivering Outcome-Focused Learning for Students and Teachers
Michigan Virtual’s whole school approach provides comprehensive education, support and resources to key stakeholders as a means of improving student outcomes in and out of class. In the K–12 sector, Michigan Virtual provides a supportive online environment to students from grade six to twelve. It offers students a variety of courses, such as credit recovery courses, and career-oriented electives.
Within its professional development sector, Michigan Virtual’s professional learning services team collaborates with subject-matter experts to develop timely, comprehensive and action-oriented learning opportunities for teachers, administrators, mentors and counselors.
Michigan Virtual provides best-in-class online learning and professional development courses for teachers, students and school districts across the state of Michigan. It also conducts original research and works with expert educators to drive innovation in the K–12 education sector.
Dr. Shannon Smith, senior director of student learning services, explains: “In recent years, the way educators teach and students learn has changed dramatically. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the uptake of online learning, but it has also revealed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to K–12 education. At Michigan Virtual we know that being able to adapt to each learner’s unique needs is key to success. It’s our mission to help schools and educators achieve this.”
In recent years, more and more schools, students and teachers have signed up for Michigan Virtual’s courses. The courses are designed to be delivered asynchronously, so learners can fit their studies into their schedules and catch up with teachers to assess their progress when it’s convenient for them. To help support this growth in its learner population, Michigan Virtual launched an initiative to ensure that its courses delivered the best possible learning and teaching experience for users.
“We wanted to improve how we track engagement and student success. Even with regular student feedback surveys, we struggled to analyze our data and make data-driven changes to our courses,” continues Dr. Smith.
“At the same time, we looked to make the grading experience easier for our teachers, because our goal is for teachers to assess students’ work within 72 hours of submission. Anything we can do to help them hit that deadline will make their lives easier and give students more regular, timely updates on their progress.”
Gaining Fresh Insight
Michigan Virtual turned to its technology partner D2L to dive deeper into learner engagement. The organization deployed Brightspace Performance Plus to help capture, track and analyze student engagement and success.
“Performance Plus integrates with Brightspace Core to open up a wealth of performance data,” explains Dr. Smith. “The intuitive user interface is a huge plus, too. We can capture rich data on the learner experience, generate easy-to-understand reports and highlight trends in the data for further analysis.”
Michigan Virtual partnered with D2L to have a better understanding of how assessments would be built in their courses. Specifically, Dr. Smith worked with Learning and Creative Services, which provided recommendations that would ultimately benefit student learning at Michigan Virtual.
To enhance the grading experience for its teachers, Michigan Virtual also implemented Brightspace QuickEval, which pulls all student submissions into a single portal for fast and effective assessment.
“I’ve marked many papers myself, so I know just how time-consuming it can be if you have to search multiple file systems for papers,” says Dr. Smith. “QuickEval organizes student submissions for our teachers and makes it simple for them to sort, grade and provide feedback on student work. With our asynchronous courses, our teachers see big fluctuations in the number of papers they need to grade at any given time, and QuickEval helps them manage their workload with ease.
“QuickEval has made assessment much easier by organizing files and presenting rubrics on screen. We’ve seen greater consistency in grading patterns—proving to us that it’s the right tool to help teachers do their best work.”
Paving the Way for Data-Driven Course Development
Currently, Michigan Virtual is in the early stages of rolling out Brightspace Performance Plus, but the organization anticipates that it will help teachers and course designers gain a much better understanding of student needs and learning styles.
“So far, we’ve launched several performance-tracking widgets via Performance Plus for our teachers, and we’re already getting positive feedback. They’ve said they feel like they have much more detail on how they can support students more effectively, both in class cohorts and on an individual level. Our students are working well with the platform too, and they’re achieving strong pass rates of over 60% on many of our courses,” Dr Smith continues.
In the coming months, Michigan Virtual also plans to launch customized reports on student success and engagement metrics with different courses and course content types.
“We’re really optimistic and enthusiastic about the possibilities provided by customized reporting. For example, if Brightspace can help us identify when students are struggling, we’ll be able to offer targeted and timely intervention before it impacts their grades. That would be a real game-changer,” Dr. Smith concludes.