Adapting fast to new challenges
One of the largest school districts in Northern Michigan, Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) is the second largest employer in the region and operates 16 schools—including elementary, middle and high schools—in a boundary area covering approximatly 300 square miles.
Many educators at TCAPS are enthusiastic about technology and have been successfully trialing digital learning in their classrooms for years. When the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily forced the school to move its courses entirely online, TCAPS saw an opportunity to build on these initial successes and formally roll out digital learning tools across all schools.
“Before the pandemic, teachers used a lot of different solutions—often free or trial versions of software that they had signed up for themselves,” explains Evan OBranovic, executive director of technology at TCAPS. “As a result, the solution landscape was complex and it was difficult to share resources or integrate tools.”
To enhance learning both virtually and in the classroom, TCAPS decided to replace this array of tools with a single, powerful learning management system (LMS). To ensure an effective rollout and help standardize digital teaching practices, the organization made it a top priority to support its staff in switching to the new LMS.
“Based on the ways our educators had been using digital tools before, we knew that some would be delighted to have a new LMS, while others would require additional training,” says Heidi Maltby-Skodack, executive director of school improvement and innovative programming at TCAPS.
Improving digital learning district-wide
“At TCAPS, we are continuing our journey towards digital convergence. Using Brightspace as our Learning Management System is a key tool for our work towards true career and college readiness.” Dr. John VanWagoner
To deliver a consistent online learning experience for students, TCAPS moved away from multi-vendor learning solutions and selected a single, central platform in D2L Brightspace, which provides a one-stop solution packed with an array of best-in-class digital learning capabilities.
“As well as providing a full suite of digital resources, D2L went above and beyond to implement the solution in line with our needs,” continues Evan OBranovic. “We worked with them to offer webinars and one-to-one support, and help us migrate our data into Brightspace quickly, securely and accurately.”
Inspiring teachers to become innovators
Brightspace now supports remote and in-class learning at all 16 TCAPS schools. Currently, 244 of the district’s teachers use D2L Brightspace in their courses and lessons, with regular use by over 7,000 students—a figure that TCAPS is actively working to increase.
“To encourage even more teachers to use Brightspace and support those with limited LMS experience, we created digital learning training courses and established an accompanying reward system,” explains Heidi Maltby-Skodack. “As well as benefiting from increasing skills and enhanced resources, we offered a financial bonus to teachers who achieve ‘advanced’ and ‘innovator’ badges. That has helped to encourage more faculty members to work toward becoming digital learning champions.”
Delivering seamless and engaging learning
By establishing a single hub for teaching and learning with Brightspace, TCAPS can now offer teachers and students more consistent and intuitive digital learning resources.
“Switching to a single LMS has removed many of the compatibility and user access headaches associated with a multi-vendor environment,” comments Evan OBranovic. “What’s more, teachers, students can access lessons, and other essential school resources from a centralized platform, enabling them to focus on learning rather than searching for materials or information.”
The TCAPS Brightspace training courses and rewards system have been hugely popular among faculty. Already, the courses have helped more teachers develop new skills and realize the full potential of digital learning. The district’s goal is to work towards creating a consistent, viable scope, sequence and curriculum for students and faculty, all while providing the flexibility for teachers to add in additional content.
“Teachers report that they are more confident using digital learning solutions, and that the Brightspace platform has helped to streamline their workloads,” comments Evan OBranovic. “For instance, teachers can easily re-purpose existing course content and lesson goals, which means that they can spend more time with students and less time planning.
Once teachers start using the Brightspace platform, they see the benefits of using it as a foundation program, because D2L Brightspace offers so many options for creating varied, exciting and impactful lessons and resources.Evan OBranovic, executive director of technology
Looking ahead, TCAPS is exploring ways to help teachers increase blended learning by creating complementary digital courses that students can take in their own time. This includes launching a competency-based course for robotics. It will be self-paced, and credits earned for students outside of school hours. When students participate in the robotics program and enter the lab, they’ll be able to check off the competencies that they’ve already practiced ahead of time.
“We’re excited to partner with D2L as we take the next step in our digital learning journey,” concludes Evan OBranovic. “With excellent support and powerful solutions from D2L, we’re confident that we can provide all students with the best possible learning experience.”