Involving parents in their children’s progress in the classroom has long been shown to significantly increase student outcomes. With parent engagement top of mind in many school districts–partly because the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires it–teachers can benefit from these best practices from peers for using education technology to get, and keep, parents engaged.
1. Tools within the LMS can Help Teachers with Outreach
One big advantage of a good learning management system is the potential time savings it offers to teachers in reaching out to parents. That’s because an LMS can include a number of built-in tools that make it easier for teachers to perform common daily activities on a single platform. Taking time to train teachers on efficient use of the LMS platform can pay off in better outreach.
For example, if students can enter their work into a secure personal folder or drop box in the LMS, access to that folder can also be shared with the parent. That’s a suggestion from Jeff Allison, the e-learning and blended learning coach at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in Hamilton, Ontario. Content sharing helps ease teachers’ daily workflow, Allison said, giving them an automated way to show parents a student’s work and collect feedback. That sort of time saving should be one result of a pilot “parent portal” that Hamilton-Wentworth is planning to launch this fall, built in the district’s learning management system, Brightspace from D2L.
An additional benefit to using a secure parent portal for outreach, Allison pointed out, is that it removes relying on students presenting their work to parents–an unreliable method at best. Teachers, of course, must be aware that materials and comments sent back to the student via such a portal can also be seen by the parent.
“I would have loved having a parent portal. That’s something I could have used every day,” agreed Kassia Kukurudza, who taught eighth grade for two years with York Regional District School Board in Ontario and is now with D2L. Portals that allow parents to sign in, engage with teachers, and see their child’s work can be used for many things, Kukurudza said. “It makes it so much easier for tracking [engagement], for analytics on which parents are coming in for meetings and which parents are engaging.” With good tools to monitor parent engagement, she said, “I could have known which parents I needed to reach out to more because they just weren’t engaging.”
Allison stressed that the portal needs to be secure: “You can put information out there – but there are lots of privacy concerns.” Proper authentication can come from the LMS, including requiring passwords so that parents can easily access their child’s folder, but also can feel comfortable with what is being shared. In short, “you want to mimic the experience the parent would have coming into the classroom,” Allison said, adding that a good parent portal can offer “the same conversation, but using a virtual component.”