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Making Indiana eLearning Days Work for You

Making Indiana eLearning Days Work for You

As more and more schools up their student-device ratio to 1:1, the possibilities for eLearning opportunities have expanded. In Indiana, this idea of virtual options for learning first manifested itself in the form of the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) Flex Program, launched in 2011, followed by the Virtual Option for Inclement Weather, which kicked off in 2014. Then, beginning in the 2017–18 school year, the IDOE combined these efforts into what is known today as the IDOE eLearning Day Program.

So, what constitutes an eLearning day?

School corporations in Indiana can take advantage of this initiative during snow or inclement weather, professional development, parent conferences, widespread illness, and flooding to continue learning outside of a traditional school environment. 

How can you make the most of eLearning days?

As of spring 2019, Indiana schools and districts are no longer required to request approval from the IDOE to implement eLearning days. Instead, the responsibility to use such days effectively is maintained by the school or district. While the IDOE no longer publishes a list of requirements for your eLearning program, there are best practices and considerations to keep in mind. Check out these 12 tips to set your program up for success:

1. Attendance: Develop and communicate to students and parents a protocol for determining student attendance for eLearning Days.

Do you expect everyone to be working online by a certain time so you can check your usage reports as a form of “taking role” or are students intended to respond to a question via your social media page as a “smart start” activity and participation within a given time frame tells the teacher that the student is engaged? Whatever you choose, consider how technology can help support this practice.

2. Communication Plan: Communicate the plan for eLearning Day implementation (including timeline) beginning with a compelling “why?”, and work to build buy-in from stakeholders.

Rolling out a previously unfamiliar policy, particularly one that requires student ownership and parent involvement needs to include a clear “why” behind it, or the buy-in simply won’t be there. Is it being treated as a policy to avoid a makeup day later in the school year? Or, maybe you’re treating your eLearning day as an opportunity for students to apply their digital skills in a different environment? Whatever it is, make sure all involved are aware of the goals and vision for rolling out this innovative approach.

3. Training Plans & Staff Expectations: Create a professional development plan to provide staff adequate training for eLearning Day implementation. Ensure students are aware of eLearning Day structure and expectations. Clearly define and communicate staff expectations based on assigned roles.

How can you expect students to know what to do if teachers are asking questions about how eLearning days are supposed to work? Logistics are critical and each teacher should know what he or she is responsible for and how he or she is going to carry forth learning under the prescribed go forward plan. Do you want your teachers to have folders that are sent home with students with instructions and contact numbers? Whatever it is—make sure that your teachers are properly trained as they are the keys to your success on days such as this.

4. Community Partners: Engage community partners who provide services that students and parents can utilize on eLearning Days (childcare providers, free WiFi providers, etc.).

You know your community best! Apply that knowledge to help enlist community partners who can provide services that are critical to the success of the eLearning day. This will likely look a little different in every community, but the more involvement and buy-in, the better your eLearning day will become.

5. Internet Access: Participating school corporations are able to demonstrate that a majority of students and teachers have access to digital learning away from school.

Ensuring that all students have access to the Internet is tough. One thing that can make that challenge a little easier to overcome is when you can trust your online provider to support students on any device of their choosing. Whether students have access to desktop computers in the public library, a parent’s laptop or tablet at home, or even just a mobile device while they’re on the go, look for a partner that can accommodate your students’ device needs with a 100% mobile-optimized curriculum.

6. Offline Support: Teachers will provide alternatives for any student without internet access at home. 

Naturally, your online provider is going to be best at delivering top-notch online experiences, but when students require something different, teachers shouldn’t find themselves at a dead end. Identify a digital partner who allows for easy access to printable lessons, activities, and even assessments that meet the same level of rigor as the digital counterparts.

7. Platform Experience & Technology Support: All teachers and students have access to and experience using online platforms (i.e., learning management system) and digital resources for learning. School corporations will provide technology support for students experiencing issues while working from home.

Troubleshooting technology issues is even tougher when students aren’t in the building. An effective digital provider tackles this problem in multiple ways. For educators, a dedicated support team should always be one chat, email, or phone call away. For students, intuitive navigation and trusted high-quality technology should be something you can depend on. And, for everyone involved, programs that are truly built by educators, for educators—those that incorporate regular educator feedback and insights to improve—are the ones you can count on year in and year out.

8. Interaction Plan: Schools will develop a protocol for teacher/student communication. Teachers will establish and communicate time periods when they are directly reachable by students and parents to facilitate and support instruction.

Your digital program provider should help facilitate immediate communication via such features as in-program messaging for students and immediate notifications and data access for teachers. When an online tool can flag where students are struggling immediately (especially when those students aren’t right in front of you raising their hands) and bring that information to your attention in a meaningful way that allows you to take action, you know it’s a winner.

9. Work Measurement: Time on task and/or learning growth should mirror that of a regular school day.

How will you know if an eLearning day has been an effective use of time for students? First, ensure that your online program is outcome-focused—meaning that it intentionally supports your goals of graduation success, standards mastery, academic growth, or any number of other key factors. Then, confirm that you have visibility into time-on-task so that you can get a sense of where students are working and spending their time relative to the outcomes they’re expected to achieve. Reporting at this level will quickly allow you to confirm that time is being spent wisely.

10. Work Continuity: Lesson will cover content that would have been addressed if school were in session in a traditional setting.

Who says you have to change your plans just because a snow day decided to strike? When technology is integrated into your day-to-day instruction, students should be able to access material that represents their next step in learning—whether that’s to get one step closer to a course credit or master an additional state standard in your district’s scope and sequence. Programs that are oriented around a natural progression of learning ensure that students never miss a beat or have to ask, “What do I do next?”

11. Learning Targets: All students will be informed of their learning targets for the day. Lesson design should include an instructional component, practice, application, and a demonstration of learning.

Learning targets can look a little different for every student, and flexibility from your digital provider can be paramount in accounting for your students’ individual needs. Whether you choose to require that a specific set of activities is completed across the board or want to set learning goals for every student, look for a program that gives you options. Digital providers can support this requirement with visible pacing recommendations for students and editable challenges that teachers can set up for a single student or an entire class.

12. Accommodation Support: All students who have accommodations for instruction will be provided with or have access to those accommodations, per their ILP/IEP/504 plan.

Accommodation support is not just something you want to have in place for an eLearning day. Your digital partner should be able to provide features and functionality to support learners’ specific needs in a digital environment each and every day. This includes offering tools such as text-to-speech, highlighters, dictionaries, and calculators, to name a few. Additionally, you should be able to customize curriculum by adjusting a course, editing placement in a learning path, or setting precise mastery goals so that your students can effectively attain successful outcomes.

As you’re weighing your options and identifying the right digital partner to support eLearning days, consider Edmentum, already the number-one course provider for Indiana students, according to IDOE. Interested in learning more about our digital curriculum and high-quality assessments? Discover what we can offer for your school or district.

This blog post was originally published on September 28, 2018.

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Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.