Response by Aaron Wertman, CEO, Schoolytics.
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