Picture this: You roll out a new learning management system (LMS) for students, but all of your professional learning is either hosted on a different platform or conducted in person with notes shared via email afterward. Sound familiar?
It’s more common than you think, but separating the educator professional learning (PL) experience from the student learning experience can actually have a negative impact on both parties’ experiences in the long run.
Using the same LMS for teaching students to host PL is a proven best practice. It allows teachers to experience learning as their students do, while providing opportunities for asynchronous PL, and making modeling easier to translate in the classroom.
According to the faculty and administrators who participated in Schoology’s State of Digital Learning Survey, 61 percent of them say the LMS used in the classroom is the same used for PL.
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My school district is in that 61 percent. We do use our LMS to transform both our classroom instruction and PL experience for our educators. As an instructional technology coach for the Colonial School District in Delaware, I have been providing PL experiences for teachers and staff, as well as offering side-by-side coaching to teachers for years. I have a passion for designing learning experiences that prepare students to be productive and successful in the 21st century. The combination of my professional experience, including 15 years in the classroom and four years as the site coordinator for the new teacher induction program, helps me relate to everyone, no matter which side of the desk they’re on.
An LMS provides a central location for all tools, so students only have to go to one place. There’s no need to type in a specific URL for another website or go to another platform for more information. We put it all in our LMS, Schoology. I’ve found that students adapt to the technology immediately–there is hardly a learning curve. Actually, the only frustration I’ve heard from students is that teachers don’t use it enough, and they want consistency among their different teachers. Using the same LMS for teaching and PL is incredibly helpful in solving that problem.
Using our LMS for PL has been an extremely positive experience. Regardless of the way our PL is delivered–face-to-face, blended or online–we do it all on our LMS. For our blended PL, we typically work with a cohort of teachers to transform their instruction. Each session builds on the previous one. We utilize the LMS to house all related resource materials as well as to provide the pre- and post-work to guide the focus of the learning experience.
For face-to-face PL, we use our LMS to post the presentation materials and supplemental resources so that they’re easy to find, whether it’s an ice breaker, fact sheet, URL, etc. We even use it for our induction program for new teachers where we connect other first-year teachers across the district in both digital and face-to-face environments. When a new teacher gets hired, we have online new-hire modules for them to complete at their convenience.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of getting staff to use the LMS more is that they are experiencing the same platform students do. They find resources and submit assignments just like their students would. We ask the teachers to consider the learning experience from two perspectives: the student perspective and the instructional design perspective. We also find that the personalization aspect that comes with this digital hub is important. The tools built into and integrated with our LMS would be overwhelming if used individually, but in the LMS they all work together in one place.
Starting with the flipped classroom idea and model helped our school adopt the mindset that using our LMS for teaching as well as PL is best for our district. When I would flip my instruction, for example, and assign videos for students to watch at home, parents found it helpful because they could see what students were learning. We began to wonder, “Why can’t we do this for PL? Why can’t educators have access to these materials outside of this brief in-person session?” The answer: We can with the help of our LMS.
Overall, the benefits we have seen from using our LMS for teaching and PL have been tremendous, and we are excited to see what we can accomplish next in terms of collaboration and truly getting the most value from the platform. The possibilities are endless. We just need to keep empowering educators to meet every student where they are and give them access to the tools that they need to be successful.