One district saw a boost in student engagement after incorporating streaming media.

Students and staff at a Galesburg, Ill., school district are giving a ringing endorsement to Learn360’s broad range of services that have enhanced the interactive learning experience at an affordable price. From blogging in the classroom to the accessibility of streaming video – creating a new class room curriculum at the click of a mouse – along with an unparalleled professional development platform for educators, Learn360 has energized and inspired Galesburg students and staff in just a matter of months.

The district includes 11 schools, and Galesburg is using Learn360 in three secondary schools – Galesburg High School, Churchill Junior High, and Lombard Middle School. Learn360 became available at the start of the 2010-11 school year.

Learn360 was a cost-effective solution for Community Unit School District #205 staff who, like their in-state peers and those in neighboring states, constantly found themselves in the crosshairs of lawmakers seeking to slash education budgets in this period of national economic stagnation.

District administrators were hoping to inspire students and educators through an updated and technologically-focused learning initiative that wouldn’t break the bank, and after an evaluation period, chose Learn360.

The district’s DVD library was rapidly becoming outdated, and social media websites, such as YouTube, were inaccessible. Now young eyes are being opened to thousands of streaming educational videos from trusted sources, including National Geographic, PBS, Encyclopedia Britannica, and A&E Television Networks.

The district needed a way to provide relevant and up-to-date content for a variety of classrooms and subject areas for a reasonable price. Learn360 did that for a fraction of the cost of purchasing DVD titles. It turned out that Learn360 offered a lot of other options that we had not really even considered prior to that.

Those options include a forum for real-time student blogs and the utilization of Learn360 as a dashboard that offers students and educators a beneficial educational media-on-demand service.

Dawn Malcolm, who teaches technology courses for seventh-grade students at the district, said that Learn360’s streaming videos piqued her students’ interest.

Streaming videos downloaded from Learn360’s website have provided an educational spark on sometimes-mundane subjects, such as keyboarding skills, and have eased the conversation about sensitive topics, including bullying and internet safety.

In addition to that, Malcolm gave Learn360’s blog feature a try in an effort to give students a way to type with purpose. She posted a question each Monday and had students respond with a blog, “the goal being that they learn to use a social networking atmosphere, as well as typing for purpose, and for other people to read your work on the internet,” Malcolm said.

That all leads to capturing the interest of students – a key goal for any teacher. “It’s effective as far as getting them engaged,” Malcolm said. “They love the technology aspect and the idea of them going online and feeling like they’re blogging.”

Malcolm’s use of the blogging tool is currently on hold, but as Learn360 continues to grow and the district continues to have access to its database of content and tools, the opportunities to build lesson plans online are there.

Students aren’t the only ones who need to enhance their education–teachers also must stay on top of their game and master the latest trends in technology.

Through Learn360’s hands-on and accessible professional development curriculum, district staff used tutorials and other training documents on Learn360’s website to further their understanding of interactive educational programs.

Learn360’s friendly customer service philosophy also made the transition to the program an easy one for district staff – not always a guarantee when dealing with new technology. A representative from Learn360 personally visited the district and led a training workshop on-site.

Teachers across the board have recognized the value of bringing lessons to life through interactive videos – the primary use of Learn360 at Galesburg. They are using Learn360 to download videos to their desktops and are playing them through a smartboard connection, which are available in almost every classroom.

While some lessons might be the same old lessons, students are much more interested in lessons after the addition of video media in their classrooms. Word of Learn360’s productive program has spread to the district’s elementary teachers and as a result, administrators are looking to expand Learn360’s reach throughout the district.

The district has ‘created a monster,’ but in a good way. By using technology as an avenue of communication, publication and sharing students’ work, Galesburg schools see Learn360 as a key component to success.

Matt Jacobson is the technology curriculum and professional development coordinator at Lincoln Education Center, the district’s administrative office.