Forsyth County School District and itslearning have collaborated to create a state-of-the-art digital learning system that could set the standard for improving education throughout the United States.
In the article “Success”, appearing in Scholastic Administrator magazine, itslearning is extolled for its cooperation with Forsyth County to create what might be “the most comprehensive digital learning system in the country”. The article’s author Wayne D’Orio writes that the implementation of the itslearning platform throughout Forsyth County Schools has been “deemed a major and immediate success”.
Forsyth County, located 45 minutes north of Atlanta, Georgia, is home to over 41,000 students in 36 schools. The district is recognized across the nation as a leader in public education, well known for its Bring Your Own Technology program. Despite this, Forsyth’s then Chief Technology and Information Officer Bailey Mitchell recognized a few years ago that the district’s learning management system was in need of improvement. Important school data was spread over multiple locations, requiring multiple logins. According to Mitchell they needed an “umbrella solution to unify all the different systems that are critical to the functioning of a school: the attendance, grading and assessment systems, the LMS, etc.” The ideal system would be a “next generation platform” that would:
- integrate seamlessly with existing technologies
- help personalize learning and make teaching easier
- perform assessments (including criteria based assessments with rubrics)
- contain a content recommendation engine
- access learning objectives and track standards mastery
- be accessible from any device
- require a single password
It was quite a wish list, but Mitchell was confident that Forsyth could find and adapt a platform to satisfy the county’s needs.
Government grant application
To help Forsyth realize their dream of creating the ideal digital learning system, they applied for a prestigious grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010. This Investing in Innovation (i3) grant is awarded to educational organisations to help them develop innovative solutions to solve common education challenges. These models of best practice can then be shared to help improve education across the nation. Forsyth put a lot of thought into the project description they submitted with their application.
Forsyth was chosen as one of 49 grant recipients out of more than 1,700 applicants. In September, 2010, they were awarded $4.7 million in funds. They were one of only 12 public school districts to receive the award. Forsyth Superintendent Buster Evans was quoted in a local online newspaper saying, “This is truly a defining moment in the history of Forsyth County Schools. The impact of the i3 project will be felt in our county, state, and nation for many generations.”
Choosing the ideal learning platform
Forsyth put a lot of time and effort into testing two different learning management systems (LMSs) before settling on itslearning. The other systems did not satisfy the county’s needs and Forsyth wasn’t willing to settle for second best. itslearning unifies Forsyth’s separate “silos” of information within a single user interface. The platform offers most of the features on Forsyth’s above-mentioned “wish list” and also provides standards-based learner plans, a single space to upload lessons and a Parent Portal. itslearning was more than willing to work with Forsyth to create a content recommendation engine and other features that the county desired.
In 2012, itslearning and Forsyth County Schools entered into a co-development project in order to create this fully integrated system. Mitchell stated, “itslearning’s commitment to innovation and their deep understanding of the pedagogy behind the technology made choosing a partner for this project an easy task.” The partners worked closely on integration and training in order to launch the platform at the beginning of the 2013 school year.
“I have witnessed first-hand the transformational nature of the itslearning solution. It maintains an outstanding reputation in the European education market. Many of the company’s employees share extensive backgrounds in and a passion for education. Most importantly, the itslearning team displayed the characteristics of a ‘partner’ instead of a learning management system provider. It was the one of the first times in my career that I experienced what it was like to work WITH an education company to develop a solution that worked best for our district.” Bailey Mitchell
The itslearning platform went “live” at Forsyth County Schools in August, 2013. Within a month the district had attained close to 80% user adoption, from its primary schools to its high schools. The system is considered a great success by students, teachers, administrators and parents. In the Administrator article, Forsyth’s director of instructional technology, Jill Hobson, is quoted as saying that the district’s model is “entirely replicable” and that other districts will only have to “tweak it to match the unique needs of their students and community.” Watch members of the Forsyth community describe the seamless implementation in this video: