By Becca Van Horn, Learning Designer, iLearnNH
In September 2020, as schools were scrambling to figure out how to safely help students learn, a new team called iLearnNH was meeting one another for the first time in Durham, New Hampshire. An eclectic mix of teachers, technologists, program managers, and professional development enthusiasts, the team had one common mission: to provide a free learning management system (LMS) to New Hampshire schools that would support the work of teachers and ensure equity and learning continuity for students.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” says Rachel Sopko, iLearnNH’s Educational Technologist. “I was teaching sophomore English in a Title I school when the world shut down, so I experienced first-hand how hard it was to move classes online, figure out how to teach over Zoom, and manage student anxiety—all while juggling a toddler. The last thing I needed was a new tool, but over the course of the last year I’ve seen how ed tech can make things like grading and feedback easier and help me better personalize learning for my students.”
Rachel and the rest of the iLearnNH team were up for the challenge.
Located at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and grant funded by the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE), iLearnNH took a three-pronged approach to carrying out its mission: provide free ed tech tools to New Hampshire schools, offer the training and support needed to ensure effective implementation and adoption, and build a community of educators to support one another along the way.
The tools include the Canvas Learning Management System, Kaltura Video Sharing, and Zoom Video Conferencing. Canvas provides a single hub for teachers to organize and manage student learning, Zoom facilitates live and recorded classroom material, and Kaltura allows teachers to safely create and share media. Together, the three tools provide a one-stop-shop for schools to organize course learning, manage student data, and communicate consistently with teachers, students, and parents.
“We really can’t overstate the value of a learning management system,” says Andrew Kelley, iLearnNH’s Director. “An LMS allows teachers to extend the in-person classroom while helping navigate interruptions like snow days and absences. It helps teachers deliver personalized instruction, students manage their learning, and parents and guardians track student progress. The possibilities are really endless.”
The benefits go beyond the K-12 environment as well. Because the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) also uses Canvas, Kaltura, and Zoom, students who stay in-state would have a leg-up in the transition to college. And if enough K-12 schools adopted Canvas in New Hampshire, students would be able to take courses outside of their regions and districts. “A student in Berlin could take French from a teacher in Portsmouth, and a teacher in Portsmouth could use French lessons created by a teacher in Henniker. It would open doors for both teachers and students,” Kelley says.
Now iLearnNH is adding another free tool to help support student learning: Discovery Education. While Canvas, Zoom, and Kaltura work together to provide a single platform that extends the in-person classroom, Discovery Education provides a rich repository of content that teachers can pull directly into Canvas. Curious students can search Discovery Education for anything from videos on shark attacks to lessons on preparing steak, and teachers can find the professional support, inspiration, and content needed to expand their lessons and continue personalizing learning. Together, the iLearnNH suite of tools provide a safe, secure digital environment for students to learn and for teachers to create engaging lessons while tracking student progress.
“I used Discovery Ed for a year as a teacher before the pandemic, and it was incredible,” Sopko says. “We are just so excited by how these four tools can work together to help schools reimagine the classroom. iLearnNH formed during the pandemic, but the power of ed tech reaches far beyond COVID-19, and we’re committed to showing how.”
As another year begins and schools again face the decision of how to help students learn safely, iLearnNH is continuing its mission to combine the strength of online learning with the power of an in-person classroom. Eventually students will return to brick-and-mortar schools full time, but that doesn’t mean that they will be able to transition to a world without learning management systems and ed tech tools—or that they should.
For more information on iLearnNH, please check out the website or write [email protected]. Follow iLearnNH on Facebook and Instagram.
Rebecca Van Horn is a writer and instructional designer living in Seacoast New Hampshire. She brings over ten years of experience in education-based nonprofit and public sector teaching, instructional design, and communications. She is delighted to support New Hampshire K-12 educators as the Learning Designer for iLearnNH.