Laying the Foundation for Success
Personalization is a huge buzzword in education today, and it’s easy to understand why—K-12 leaders are trying to create more personalized, learner-focused experiences for their students.
But just as students benefit from a personalized approach to instruction that is tailored to their specific needs and includes plenty of support, school districts benefit from the same kind of customized, highly supportive approach when it comes to their implementation of software.
A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the most effective way to teach, and it’s not the best way to adopt educational technology, either. This is especially true with regard to the software that facilitates instructional transformation, the learning management system (LMS).
When you’re evaluating LMS solutions for your school or district, you have several options to choose from—including some free platforms and others whose basic software is free but who charge a premium for more advanced features. These free or “freemium” solutions might be sufficient for your needs, but it’s unlikely they can be customized or configured to meet your exact specifications and might put your data at risk.
What’s more, implementing LMS software can be challenging. Schools need to build out courses, import their legacy content, make sure the system integrates with their SIS and other programs, and train staff—among other tasks. Transforming how teaching and learning occur to take advantage of digital technologies is a heavy lift. It involves shifting the entire culture of a school district. Having a provider who is a full partner in all of these efforts can help lighten the load—and that’s not something you get with free software.
When Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver, Washington, decided to give every student a digital device by the 2017-18 school year, district officials knew they needed an online platform containing all of the resources that students would need to be successful—something that would facilitate a full digital teaching and learning experience. They also wanted a system that could help teachers measure student proficiency and recommend appropriate resources. So, they started testing and analyzing various solutions to find the one that would best suit their requirements.
“We wanted a product that was going to allow for some flexibility, while integrating seamlessly with our other software programs,” said Chris McMurray, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for the 26,000-student district. District leaders also wanted a provider who was not just a software vendor, but a full partner in the initiative.
“Knowing this was new territory for us, we were looking for a provider who could help us get where we wanted to go and was willing to work with us every step of the way,” McMurray said. “And that’s what we found with [the LMS provider] itslearning.”
Evergreen has been rolling out its LMS since the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. “We have approached the project incrementally, knowing that we want all students to be using it by fall 2017,” McMurray said. “When fully implemented, the system will support the development of every learner in our district—including adults. Our mission is to create personalized learning experiences for our adults and kids, and this flexible learning platform will facilitate every aspect of that.”
He added: “While we don’t have all of the pieces in place that we want, we’re getting there. Our LMS implementation keeps growing and moving. And that’s one of the great things about working with itslearning: They’re right there with us.”
Beware of “free” LMS solutions. You might end up spending more than you think. You can’t put a price on success—and that’s what you get with a full enterprise-level partner.