With the shift to virtual and hybrid learning models, schools have been struggling to keep track of their students online, regularly asking themselves: “What on earth is going on with our virtual students?”
Schools are desperately trying to understand which students are engaged and which students may be falling through the cracks. This problem arose because legacy learning indicators like attendance and behavioral data are inaccessible in a digital setting and many schools lack the infrastructure to collect and analyze this new digital learning data.
Much of the guidance we give to schools focuses on which tools and indicators they should be using to rethink measuring student engagement. Variations of “butts in seats” metrics are less useful in the digital environment, and many of the schools we work with have highlighted difficult conversations in parent conferences.
In one case, a parent reported that their child was online seven hours a day doing something on their device, yet internal metrics showed their course work completion rate is just 5%. It is one thing to measure how many hours a student is on a device, but an entirely different task to quantify how engaged a student is with learning.
Further, the digital divide complicates this metric when thinking about students who may have limited times when they can access a device or the internet.
Our leading advice to schools is to focus on students completing assignments in order to measure engagement. Measuring course work completion rate is a robust indicator with evidence-based research for identifying at-risk students and showing greater nuance in learning and progression than what attendance or minutes alone can offer.
It is a metric that can be used to measure not only individual student engagement, but also to identify trends across courses, subjects, grade levels, and schools.
Schools need to rethink what their student information system should offer. Is it just a place to manually enter student data? Or should it be a platform that serves educators and students by using data to inform instruction, best practices, and ultimately to guide action?
We believe that schools should be shifting from student information systems to student data platforms that enable different stakeholders to tap into the data they need safely and securely.
Finally, we are seeing the following broad investment trends in IT:
Apps to engage students in remote, hybrid, and blended learning settings
Platforms to measure student engagement with digital learning
Privacy and safety tools to protect students online
Are K–12 schools fully prepared for today’s digital and physical emergencies? According to a recent federal report, schools are becoming safer, partially through the proactive use of technology. Skyward, an administrative software provider committed to a better experience for every user, is helping lead improvements by encouraging school leaders to leverage an existing tool, their student information systems, to amp up security and ensure protection of their sensitive data.
Although statistics suggest schools are becoming safer, a recent poll indicates parents feel schools are less safe today than they were 20 years ago. Skyward’s SIS aims to alleviate those concerns by giving parents the ability to provide student information such as protection orders against unwanted visitors and reunification instructions to ensure students are paired with the correct guardian in the event of an emergency. Parents can also enter vital health information regarding student allergies and medications, which school staff can view and act on during medical emergencies.
“Skyward continues to help us keep students safe with speed and accuracy—the two most important factors during an emergency,” said Jacque Deckard, data management coordinator at Mooresville School Corporation in Indiana.
Skyward’s SIS also provides a real-time notification system, which can send important messages to students, parents, and staff during an emergency. Additionally, school leaders can set up an anonymous tip line within the notification system, offering individuals the opportunity to report incidents such as bullying, self-harm, and possible threats to the school.
“It’s important for our students, parents, and faculty to be heard and feel comfortable. Thanks to Skyward, this is possible because they can remain anonymous and still voice safety concerns,” said Lora Lovelace, data management coordinator at Center Grove Community Schools in Indiana.
While physical threats are at the forefront of security concerns, Skyward is continuing to protect districts against data breaches as well. In 2019, dozens of cybersecurity incidents have affected K-12 schools, and 122 similar breaches occurred at schools in 2018. By partnering with ISCorp, a hosting solution, Skyward offers districts the opportunity to host their sensitive information on a secure cloud service, which provides 24/7 monitoring and fail-safe backups.
“When students and faculty walk through school doors, they deserve to feel safe and confident their information is protected,” said Scott Glinski, CEO of Skyward. “As a system that many districts use, we recognize our role as part of the solution, which is why we will continue evolving our software to defend against all threats, both digital and physical.”