In response to widespread school closures, districts are developing e-learning plans. We want to contribute to this process, and so we wrote this guide to help our customers.
At a high level, we believe that organizations with Google for Education and TeacherEase already have the necessary software infrastructure to implement effective e-learning. This also happens to be the majority of Common Goal Systems’ SIS user base. With these tools in place, our customers can be successful with e-learning, without the need to purchase any new software. We believe the majority of effort will likely be process definition, staff training, and communication with students and parents.
This document is partly operational, and describes how to run an e-learning system today. It’s also aspirational, as we plan to add functionality to TeacherEase and improve the solution.
Underlying Infrastructure Requirements
We assume districts and families will have infrastructure in place to support e-learning:
- 1:1 computing devices
- Widespread Internet access at home
- Google for Education (preferably Enterprise)
For low-income or rural areas, access to computing devices and reliable Internet access may be difficult. We assume districts, or other entities, will take steps to make these resources available. While we’re experts in technology, there are organizations who can better assist schools in addressing these obstacles. This document assumes these challenges have been overcome.
An e-learning system will have a number of components.
Content Management System
Teachers will design instructional content for their online classroom and store it in a central location. They need the ability to build, find, and/or purchase electronic versions of their curriculum, which will be delivered to students. This would typically include lesson plans, instructional videos, digital activities, documents, and various resources. The software that holds this information is a content management system (CMS), which can be implemented with TeacherEase. The CMS provides a roadmap of student activities for a given day or week.
Learning Management System (LMS)
The e-learning system needs the ability to distribute instructional resources to students, collect artifacts of completed work, and deliver assessments. These are the steps students take to acquire, practice, and demonstrate new skills and understanding. This is typically done with a learning management system (LMS), in this case Google Classroom and/or TeacherEase.
There is a wide variety of resources that can be used in e-learning (video, Google Docs, documents, quizzes, rich interactive activities, etc), and a wide variety of teaching techniques (direct instruction, project-based learning, flipped classroom, etc), but the common denominator is they’ll go into the LMS. As teachers spend more time delivering e-learning, they’ll likely build skills and improve their practices.
During the e-learning experience, members of the classroom community need the ability to communicate with each other. Students can ask questions, which are answered by teachers or other students. These discussions are typically done inside a chat program, in this case Google Hangouts Chat (or Google Chat for short). There would likely be one group per classroom, with new threads for each assignment or topic. Other groups could be set up for small group instruction, student teams, and intervention.
There’s also a professional development aspect to chat too. There can be chat groups for teaching teams, subject areas, grade levels, etc. where teachers share practices. This can be a virtual area where teachers interact with their colleagues and learn from each other.
While chat is good, during class time students and teacher(s) should be part of a virtual classroom with verbal conversations and video. The ability to see each others’ faces, hear voices, and read body language enhances the richness of communication. Teachers could also project their whiteboard or drawing surface while instructing. This is available through Google Hangouts Meet (or Google Meetings for short).
Depending on the mode of instruction, teachers could use direct instruction to present new course material during meetings. Alternatively they could follow a “flipped classroom” model, and ask students to consume pre-recorded videos beforehand. They’d support work sessions during the group meeting. There are many choices for instructional practice in an e-learning environment.
Online Attendance Tracking
One common requirement in e-learning is to verify student attendance. The system needs the ability to track whether students are participating in the online curricula. TeacherEase can fulfill this function and has a mechanism for students to check-in to their online sessions. This is integrated with the SIS so information flows into the main attendance module. When the states decide how this data should be reported, it will be ready and available in your SIS.
Integration to SIS
The results of student learning should be measured and reported. Whether schools follow traditional or standards-based instruction principles, the results of their work should flow into the gradebook and report cards (to avoid the need for double entry). This is handled by the Google Classroom integration within TeacherEase.
A Day in the Life of E-Learning
With the structure outlined above, here’s what a typical day of e-learning will look like:
- Create lessons in TeacherEase and publish them to students
- Create a general outline for the day
- Include links to any resources or websites students will use
- Link to YouTube videos of direct instruction
- Create Assignments in Google Classroom which automatically synch to TeacherEase
- Link the new assignment in TeacherEase to the lesson
- Create G Suite documents if students are completing work
- When students are working in other systems (non-Google), use File Upload Assignments in TeacherEase. Students can share a screenshot of their completed work.
- Students login to TeacherEase
- Check-In to take attendance
- Use the task list to view the day’s activities
- Launch assignments, videos, and other instructional content
- Students and instructor(s) launch Google Chat
- This facilitates communication within the classroom
- Students should stay logged in all day so teacher can communicate with them
- If mobile devices are available, the Google Chat mobile app helps teachers and students know communications are happening as they move around their living space.
- Teachers can push quick polls to students to assess student engagement
- Students and instructor log into Google Meeting to discuss and collaborate
- The teacher can push a Google Meeting to the class through Google Chat
- Teachers could ask all students to be present in the meeting if they’re doing large group instruction.
- Students can come in and out of the meeting, based upon need for verbal discussion or video presentation.
- Students work on assignments, and hand them in
- Each GSuite document has a “Hand-In” button at the top, which submits work to GClassroom and TeacherEase.
- Teachers grade student work, and return it
- Instructors monitor the Status Console to view student progress through assignments
- Grading can be accessed through TeacherEase or Google Classroom
- Students view returned work, feedback, and scores from within TeacherEase.
While the current software stack can support e-learning, we plan to work on enhancements to TeacherEase that will improve the customer experience. Feel free to inform on our plan by joining our customer advisory team (see link at bottom of doc).
- Add a day view to the calendar on the main page (view my work for today)
- Google Chat Bots
- Build bots into TeacherEase to automate management of Google Chat
- Auto create a group per class
- Auto add students to the class groups based upon rosters
- Give a UI to publish quick polls to students.
- Good for engaging students
- Can be used to stimulate online activity and verify attendance
- Build bots into TeacherEase to automate management of Google Chat
- In addition to student check-in, support attendance decision-making by logging student access to GSuite documents.
- Use the Google API to retrieve student access logs to GSuite documents linked in assignments.
- Chart student engagement with online activities throughout the day
- Monitor Student Progress
- Upgrade instructor console to view more student progress. See if they’re interacting with resources on assignments, or doing something else.
- Highlight inactive students, so the teacher can reach out to them
- Show data from Google about interactions with documents in drive
- Show hangout status (if we can query this)
- Upsize the TeacherEase Newsfeed to be more of a discussion board with questions, discussions, and photos.
- Better support differentiation
- Allow instructors to split the class into groups and push an assignment to each group with a chat room for them to work together.
- Create Assignments
- Be able to add GSuite documents directly inside TeacherEase assignments. This would allow students to login to TeacherEase only (and not need to login to two portals).
- Support importing of scores from other websites, not just Google Classroom
- Easier Video Capture
- Need to do investigation to enable video capture within Google Meetings and upload to Youtube for future reference
- Google Calendar integration
- When creating lessons with direct instruction, be able to schedule a Google Meeting and invite students to it. This will integrate with their calendar (if they use it) and trigger an alarm to remind them of the session.
- Allow quick links to different external sites (e.g. Khan Academy)
- Push student photos to Google
Our team is hard at work creating new documentation and training material to help you better use TeacherEase for e-learning. Keep an eye on future news releases for more information.
If you’d like to help inform our progress, fill out this survey to be part of our e-learning advisory team.