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Franklin County Public Schools opts for new online learning system in wake of COVID-19 closure
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Franklin County Public Schools opts for new online learning system in wake of COVID-19 closure

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Franklin County Public Schools is implementing Canvas as its learning management system for the 2020-21 school year.

The division’s learning management system committee chose the platform after spending months comparing it to Google Classroom.

“It was a win-win for us,” said Assistant Superintendent Sue Rogers, while presenting the plan to school board members last month. “One of the things that really made us lean towards Canvas was that it syncs with our student information system and our reporting system, so all of that information will not have to be re-entered.”

Rogers explained that with COVID-19’s ever-changing dynamics, the school system felt the need to accelerate their search for the right learning system.

“Google Classroom has limitations, and we have to think about our consumers — our parents and students — and what makes the best sense for them.”

After the abrupt closing of schools in March, parents were presented with a myriad of different platforms on which to work with their children. Some of those platforms included Google Classroom, Remind and Class Dojo. Many parents with multiple children attending different schools reportedly found themselves confused by the array of apps being used to keep up with assignments, announcements and virtual classroom meetings.

“As a parent of a high school student and an elementary school student, I can appreciate this,” said Franklin County School Board Chair Julie Nix. “It would be very nice to have a central place to look for everything. I can’t be the only one who got confused.”

Canvas will allow parents to view all assignments for each child on one app versus having to link to different apps for each of the other platforms.

Many teachers and students already familiar with Google Classroom can still use that platform, but it would need to be integrated into the Canvas platform, Rogers said.

“The good news is they can continue to use Google Classroom,” she said. “What is nice about Canvas is that all Google classrooms can integrate right into the canvas platform.”

The reopening plans for the upcoming school year are still not set in stone, “but we are going to work with the mindset that we will develop fully into Canvas to prepare for any reclosures,” Rogers said.

Canvas can also be utilized during scheduled school closures or workdays.

“There’s no reason why we can’t have students still learning at home on Election Day,” Rogers said. “We can take advantage of this new normal to ask what we can do differently.”

Students with limited or no access to internet will also benefit from using Canvas, as the platform contains an accessibility feature that will allow students to transfer their lessons onto an e-reader while at school, work on a Google document offline at home, and then upload their work when they return to school.

“That was definitely something we wanted to consider for our students who did not have accessibility,” Rogers said. “It also provides accessibility for students with disabilities, like reading aloud, color coding and lots of other good features that our students need.”

Training for the platform is already underway. The school system has developed an A Team, which is receiving accelerated training in Google, notifications and various other apps and features, Rogers said.

“They will be taking that information and working with curriculum teams,” she said.

Curriculum teams have already started generating plans for communication, training, engagement and assessment.

“We will be looking at certain milestones or key performance indicators,” Rogers said. “Basically, the speed, utilization and proficiency of usage.”

Teachers will have the option of going through training over the summer or waiting until school starts to train.

“We will work to build virtual opportunities this summer and coaching within the school year will be ongoing,” Rogers said. “Canvas has deployed this system through higher education across the nation. They are a very robust company that can support us with this project.”

Rogers said she anticipates the training and the changes for the upcoming school year to be a little “lumpy and bumpy” at first. “But that’s OK,” she said. “We’re all learners.”

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