When schools were told earlier this year that any student who could learn from home must do so, Wodonga Middle Years College (WMYC) was forced into a situation where it had to enable its 900 students to learn remotely.
For almost all educators, this task was a daunting one, but WMYC was fortunate to have had a solid online learning architecture in place, meaning that the disruption to the school’s daily operations was relatively minimal.
According to assistant principal, Steve Fouracre, a key pillar of this success was the Brightspace platform, adopted in 2016, which the school used to create a personalised learning environment and encourage continuous engagement among its students.
“Our lesson structure is set out consistently across learning areas that include an Essential Question, Learning Intention and Success Criteria,” Fouracre told The Educator.
“After the necessary explicit teaching, the students then have the required tasks to complete and can work through with the support of their peers and teachers”.
Fouracre said the task will range from writing, inquiry, collaboration and reading that utilise many of the learning tools within the Brightspace platform.
As a result, students at the school now have the ability to access the content outside of the traditional learning times and environment.
“The learning is very transparent, and students can take ownership of the quality and depth of tasks completed,” Fouracre said.
“Depending on the nature of the task students have the ability to access very prompt feedback from their teachers from work submissions”.
Fouracre said teachers have been especially appreciative of the fact that all the planning and refining of content can be done collaboratively across all of the school’s learning areas.
“For assessment and feedback our teachers have a consistent platform within the Dropbox tool to mark consistent rubrics and then follow our feedback model”.
‘Maintain a clear direction of where you want to be’
Fouracre said that during remote learning, the school had a strong focus on maintaining the connection and sense of community it worked hard to establish with students.
“Our teachers were in regular contact with their students and providing them with timely feedback on their work submissions,” he explained.
“The constant communication ensure that our students still had the access to content through Brightspace and the support of their teachers”.
WMYC, a 1:1 iPad school, opted to deliver all of its teaching and learning materials through its LMS, incorporating the use of Microsoft teams during remote learning to ensure it could always connect with its students.
Fouracre said the initial administration training took up four days, but the uptake by teaching staff was as good as the professional learning they’re provided with.
“Every school has early adopters and staff with advanced technology skill sets so it's important to identify these staff early have then provide the necessary professional learning in the areas that you want to develop,” he said.
“From there, it's about maintaining a clear direction on where you want to be and putting in appropriate milestones to ensure the targets are being met”.