Silver Linings with an LMS

April 23, 2021

Embracing the Challenge

Every Labor Day Weekend, my wife and I go to Lake Tahoe. This vacation was different: COVID restrictions, poor air quality from the fires ravaging California, and an uncertainty for what lies ahead for the 2020-2021 school year. I woke up one morning to grab some coffee and breakfast from a coffee shop called Coffeebar in Truckee, CA. On the way back, I received a phone call from a Director of Professional Development from a school district in Santa Clara County. The ask was relatively straightforward: They have a school in their district that wants to embrace the challenges being presented with COVID and would like to experiment with a new Learning Management System (LMS). That LMS was Canvas.

Finding a Hidden Opportunity

It was a small school with a faculty of 10 that allows students to experience and earn college credits while also completing their high school requirements for graduation. It made sense that they wanted to learn Canvas because it would provide their students with a seamless transition from high school to college since every California Community College and most University of California and California State University schools have adopted the Canvas Learning Management System. But, adoption is easier said than done, especially when it is compounded on top of the challenges that the year 2020 presented. 

The KCI and the school/district formulated a plan. Dr. Steven McGriff, the former Professor of Residence at KCI, Foothill College Adjunct Professor, and current consultant, was asked to lead the professional development because of his expertise with course development and management inside of Canvas. The plan included three stages:

Ensuring a Successful Rollout

  • Stage 1 – Intensive PD Sessions
    Five 2-hour intensive sessions that ranged from getting familiar with the platform to creating their course outline
  • Stage 2 – Caretaker Meetings
    1-hour caretaker meeting to familiarize caretakers with the platform
  • Stage 3 – Teacher Deep Dives
    Five 1-hour deep dives into additional functionality of Canvas and troubleshooting issues they had experienced

With some help from KCI…

Teachers and administrators of the school who started out skeptical and unsure of the transition are now proponents of the platform and see its versatility. One teacher-leader shares:

Their students are able to focus on the content in their college courses rather than spending extra energy learning how to use Canvas itself. 

While teachers have spent so much additional time and effort in helping their students learn, it has been difficult to see those efforts pay off. One small success in the pandemic was this small school’s ability to pivot to a new LMS for the benefit of their students. Who knew a silver lining could exist in a Learning Management System?

Author

  • Justin Sewell has joined KCI as the Director of Partnerships & Programs. He graduated from Salisbury University with a B.S. degree in Molecular Biology and he received an M.S. degree in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. After working in a DNA diagnostics laboratory, Justin transitioned to education. He student taught in Vermont and then spent the majority of his teaching career in Baltimore County where he taught Chemistry and Biology and held a department chair position at two high schools. He brought his passion for technology, science, and education to the Silicon Valley Education Foundation where he was responsible for a variety of projects including the development of a middle school computer science course, observing and writing an ethnographic study on 7th grade math edtech products, and working with other nonprofits, companies, districts, and government offices to improve STEM education in the Bay Area.