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A new adventure in virtual learning – a work in progress…

October 11, 2014 by meghastie   

work in progress 

The paradigmatic shift from teacher-centred to student-centred learning is a hallmark of contemporary education. It is been equally accompanied by both a desire to engage in the rich offerings afforded by the development of information and digital technology (IT) tools, and the emergence of e-learning has further assisted the implementation of a range of learner-centred learning processes.  Straddling these factors, however, is the increased need to re-educate teachers and to re-examine concepts of what a learning space might be, shifting the focus from the physical space to a greater awareness of the broader learning environment, and increasingly virtual spaces.

But what does this look like?  Engagement with new technologies and media is a significant step in a school moving to contemporary practices and learning. I’m going to start exploring this delicate and sometimes unpredictable dance through one school’s journey along the road towards implementing a new Learning Management System (LMS).  This journey is one that has only just begun.  It’s a journey fraught with possibilities and pitfalls.  However, this post will look at one aspect – the background and then original plan for implementation. As this journey continues, more will follow…

The school in question is an independent dual-credentialled (local state curriculum and the International Baccalaureate) school of approximately 850 students from Pre-K – 12.  It operates on the outskirts of a major capital city, in an environment that has clientele from semi-rural through to the outer suburbs, and a number of International students.  The school has a reputation of achieving excellent results in its matriculation results and is highly regarded in the surrounding community.  It has high ideals and is keen to adopt new pedagogies, as well as to keep abreast of educational advancements and social expectations regarding new media and technologies.

However, the school itself has struggled to adapt to know how to authentically engage with new ideas regarding pedagogy and digital technologies.  Increasing demands regarding the documentation and compliance of the two credentialling study programs has affected staff capacity to engage in innovative practice, and the school has not managed the change to newer ideas effectively.  A shift in management style and structure has led to a movement away from in-house staff development or training. The large executive body in the school has increasingly taken over the decision-making roles of the school, so that a school that was once reasonably collaborative, is now more tightly controlled.

In May 2012, in response to a whole-school parental survey that pinpointed the need for more effective communication with the school and more transparent ideas of teaching and assessment. the school’s executive leadership decided to change the school’s LMS.  It that was seen to be outdated and difficult to use, with low staff confidence, and to explore options for a new LMS that would support the school’s recently developed vision and mission that posited the education provided by the school would be “rigorous, contemporary and positive”.  Although this was not fleshed out, the process of developing the pedagogical  paradigm and practices was included in the school’s overall strategic plan.

At this stage, the reworking the technological architecture was driving change, rather than the broader learning frameworks within the school. However, it was hoped that the introduction of the new LMS would act as a motivator to shift the pedagogical paradigm into the 21st century.   Consequently, there was no overarching discussion as to what learning should look like at the institution, or how that could be achieved.  One of the executive members with a personal interest in the area was to lead the exploration and implementation of the process. There was no surveying of staff or students to support the supposition, nor involvement in the selection process. THere was a limited showcasing of several potential LMS’s, However, a detailed implementation schedule was developed, that sought to delineate the process of introducing and adopting the new LMS

 Project planning

To effectively implement the new LMS, a careful and planned effort in aligning processes, information and people into the new direction the LMS introduces is the key to success. Investment into a coherent planning program will aid in the achievement of the projects goals.

Deployment (April to July)

  • Create roles & responsibilities (names/dates/milestones/controls/work breakdown etc)
  • Create HR plan auditing internal, vendor and key stakeholders
  • Create Communication Plan (focusing on key stakeholders/audiences)
  • Create Change Management, Risk & Security Plan
  • Hold Executive Review to monitor School needs
    • What leadership is needed to deliver project that meet expectations? 
    • What controls are needed to create a reasonable assurance of outcomes?

 Team of Champions (July to August)

  • Nominate Team of Champions (TOC) who following attributes:
  1. Understanding that ICT is integral as teaching/learning tool
  2. Confidence and competence in using web-based technology
  3. A desire to raise awareness of the system amongst other staff and share personal experiences
  4. A high level of personal credibility among colleagues
  5. The desire to make a difference
  •  Enable Team of Champions to fulfil role of:
  1. Generating confidence in the use of system
  2. Provide practical resources for using system
  3. Model innovation using system and leading pedagogy
  4. Provide first level support (i.e. setting up a page, uploading docs)
  • Provide your Champions support and an opportunity to:
  1. receive comprehensive training
  2. test and successfully incorporate LMS into their daily routine
  3. encourage and support other members of the School community to use the system extensively
  4. resources and time to run ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions to train other staff

 Training & resource development (July to September)

  • Create and populate Resource Manager
  1. Create structure
  2. Create some initial demo resources
  3. Create self-help videos for staff
  • Staff training schedule
  1. Create training schedule (P to 12 / JS & HS/ Faculty)
  2. Enabling/resourcing support mentors (i.e. staff teaching staff)

Pilot program & Rollout (August to October)

  • Pilot program discussion with TOC – enable them to set goals and directions of pilot within broader aims of project
  • Provide data for initial LMS configuration, for pilot
  • Developing use case examples as a guide for broader implementation
  • Gathering feedback following the initial pilot
  • Evolve strategy following pilot based on feedback
  • Clearly communication (early and often) project aims, dates, expectations, and provide support for middle leaders for success of project
  • Management structure, leadership to enabling ongoing drive and direction of implementation
  • Continuous staff training & focus from learning leaders re: centrality
  • Showcases with students & staff for reasons for change and positives of LMS
  • Allow open feedback and flexibility, adIT Deptg to ongoing changes

Rollout/ Implementation (October to January 2014)

Clearly communication (early and often) project aims, dates, expectations, and provide support for middle leaders for success of project

  • Management structure, leadership to enabling ongoing drive and direction of implementation
  • Continuous staff training & focus from learning leaders re: centrality
  • Showcases with students & staff for reasons for change and positives of LMS
  • Allow open feedback and flexibility, adding to ongoing changes

Ongoing Communication of Project (August to January 2014)

 Articulating aims of projects / benefits of LMS

Establish clear and consistent message throughout Executive and Middle management regarding benefits of LMS project/LMS (ability to streamline processes, enable collaboration, improve teaching learning) focusing on the following positives:

  • Engages the whole School community through improved, online communication
  • Engagement of students in new and innovative ways
  • Provision of a safe and controlled online environment in which students can collaborate and learn with their peers
  • Students have a technology platform to display their best works using ePortfolio
  • Provides students their own personal learning environment
  • Offer teachers and easy to use, streamlined ways to communicate to support student learning
  • Placement of innovation and creativity back into teachers’ hands
  • Offers a consistent and accessible tool for teacher collaboration
  • Encourages parents to become involved in their students’ learning

Awareness raising

  • Demonstrations to staff
  • Sharing good practice days
  • Use LMS as the place to go for other staff development like ‘Understanding Bullying’ or ‘OH&S updates’.
  • Use of online training or computer-based training to show people how to do things with LMS – handouts

 Campaign – Term 4 2013

  • Launch my.stpauls to students – last month of 2013 (posters/emails/demonstrations)
  • Direct mail/email communication from Principal
  • Online sub-site with information
  • Online information videos launching projects (aimed at parents & students)

Some issues under still consideration…

Calendar workflow    

  1. 1.         The LMS product allows teachers/faculties to construct class/subject calendars where students can see a range of dates applicable for their area of study. Currently we maintain an assessment calendar where HoH/teachers nominate assessment dates which are approved regarding assessment load and overall School calendar. The benefits of having these ‘micro’ calendars allow teachers to post and manage ongoing class related events.
    Questions were expressed regarding correlation of these calendars against the whole school academic calendar (i.e. teachers not keeping these up to date to reflect assessment calendar).

Actions                    Executive                , IT Dept

  1. Auditing of current calendar audiences (who can read+write), functions (what is the calendar for) and data (what information does the calendar communicate)
  2. Decide if added calendar functions are to be enabled & if so, processes to be enacted


Content approval

  1. Staff will be communicating with students (thus parents) using blogs and other news based items.
    Questions were expressed regarding ensuring simple grammar/spelling mistakes that poorly reflect on education product of School’s.

    Actions                            Executive

    1. Implementation of publishing protocols (procedures regarding expected checks/proofing)
    2. Implementation of spelling/grammar checks in LMS input editor




Structures of the LMS

  1. 3.        For staff, data will be shared across in a folder structure so that year groups/faculties/class teachers can share learning activities & resources.

 Questions were raised regarding:

  1. structure of this data (whether we separate in Faculties/Yeargroups/Terms or Years/Faculties/Terms).

Our School has used as is plagiarism application for over 6 years. The LMS provides a similar built in service ( ).

Questions were raised regarding:

  1. feasibility in moving to new system (integrity of new system + change with staff vs workflow issues in coming out of LMS and into ‘Turnitin’

LMS is a P to 12 LMS – however the application will look different in Infants to Upper Primary to High School.

Questions were raised regarding:

  1. c.        Delivering content by class or by year, and the content / activity required at the levels of education

 Actions                              Executive, IT Dept

  1. Decide how staff best share learning activities & resources

i.      Implement this in database

  1. Decide if ‘plagscan’ suits needs of School

i.      Approve this integration in LMS

  1. Discuss needs in Infants, Middle & Upper Primary & High School

i.      Resolve structure accordingly


Expectations on staff

  1. 4.        Implementing the LMS involves the automatic population of class pages across the School.  Students will have access to a class page regardless of use/action by teacher. Risk of inconsistent use between classes/teachers could lead to difficulties with students & parents. Questions were raised regarding minimum requirements of staff using LMS in 2014.


Actions                            Executive

  1. Discussion of ‘thin end of wedge’ opportunity for pedagogical change re: use of collaborative structures of LMS

i.      Work through deliverables of desired classroom practice 2014/2015/2016 with expectations set for each year (Strategic Plan 1.i, 2i & 2ii).

  1. Decide expectations for staff for use of LMS for 2014


Resourcing & Training

  1. 5.        To meet proposed deadlines of implementation School wide for 2014 (see attached chart), resources will need to be allocated in both training middle leaders (already invoiced and paid for 8 hours training of 30 people)


Actions                              Executive

  1. Decide and nominate date and structure of LMS led training day

i.      Nominate suitable staff to be trained (team of Champions)

ii.      Nominate suitable date & venue

  1. Decide staff leadership of project

i.      Nominate 2-3 staff to lead project across school

  1. Decide ongoing support

i.      Nominate desired training days in Term 3 & 4 and Term 1 2014


Where to from here?…

This year has been a year of “play”, albeit live, and experimentation.

Having come this far, we are at a critical stage in the project development. Most of the LMS has been rolled out – or will be in the next few months.  But more importantly, next year is our year for staff “getting serious”, and having to meet benchmarks for usage.

Two critical events have occurred over the last three months that may have a significant impact on our immediate directions.  The project officer – the main driver of the LMS introduction and in charge of processes – has since left the school.  Secondly, the current leader of learning is also leaving at the end of the year.  This leaves opens many possibilities for the next phase of implementation.


The initial hopes regarding pedagogical shift and effective implementation of the LMS may yet be achieved…



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