Renowned for the quality of its teaching certification programs, the Louisiana Research Center for Educators (LRCE) was challenged with transforming its face-to-face classroom delivery model to an online learning platform with the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Working in partnership with Moodle Certified Partner, My Learning Consultants (now Moodle US) over an intense 8 week period, LRCE transformed years of curriculum content into Moodle courses, established a reliable and scalable online infrastructure, and trained their teaching workforce to use the Moodle platform. Not only has the project created efficiencies, supported differentiation and utilised data insights to inform improvements to course delivery, it has allowed LRCE to reach historically underserved communities and improve the quality of teaching in districts across Louisiana.
About LRCE – Driving educational equity across Louisiana
The Louisiana Research Center for Educators (LRCE) is a not for profit teacher training organization that prides itself on driving educational equity across Louisiana. Originally established in 2003 as a resource library for teachers, the LRCE has evolved to delivering professional development, certification programs and in 2006, post baccalaureate teacher’s certification. Renowned for the quality of its programs and instruction, LRCE has trained well over 2000 teachers for the state of Louisiana, many of whom have subsequently won district and state awards or become leaders within their educational context.
Up until early 2020, all LRCE training and certification had been delivered in classroom settings to participants in the Baton Rouge area. This model included a 7 week full-time concentrated block of in-person classroom instruction over the summer. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated in early 2020, LRCE were challenged with transforming their education programs from face-to-face delivery to an online or virtual learning model.
Challenge – Maintaining quality instruction in an accelerated move to online delivery
With 150 student teachers signed up for the 2020 summer Certification program, the LRCE leadership team were tasked with selecting an e-learning platform, establishing an online infrastructure, moving years of curriculum content into online delivery and training the teaching workforce of 9 full time and 20 adjunct teachers in the use of that platform.
Chris Joyce, the Senior Director of Programs at LRCE explains, “We have always been known for having great relationships with our students and a 1 on 1 personal touch. Our curriculum and instruction are second to none and it was very important to us, unlike some of our competitors, that we maintained a component of synchronous delivery and, of course, the quality of our instructional design. We also recognised that the move to online would provide us the opportunity to train and certify teachers all across the state of Louisiana, rather than being limited to a certain subgroup based on time and location. We knew that this would allow us to reach historically underserved communities and ultimately improve the quality of teaching in those districts.”
LRCE had just an eight week period to select, build and implement an online learning platform.
Approach – Working in partnership with Moodle Certified Service Provider
A number of alternative LMS platforms were reviewed. LRCE identified that they needed a platform that supported both synchronous and asynchronous delivery and was easy to navigate as many people that undertake teaching training haven’t completed formal education for many years, or their technology skills may not be that strong. Equally, ease of use needed to be balanced with good course design and the ability to utilise data to make informed decisions about curriculum design and delivery.
“We liked the Moodle platform, but very importantly we liked My Learning Consultants (MLC) and the partnership with them. We valued that they provided a team of people dedicated to ‘hold our hand’ through the process as none of us had the required level of experience to build the platform ourselves,” says Joyce.
The choice of Moodle as a platform was therefore made hand in hand with the choice of Moodle Certified Service Provider, MLC (now Moodle US) who worked very closely with Chris Joyce, Senior Director of Programs and Bethany Robixheaux, Senior Director of Operations and Finance at LRCE.
“The team at MLC walked us, namely myself and my colleague Bethany, through the build, every step of the way, both technically and from a learning design perspective. Michelle Moore and Ryan Hazen was there to explain, for instance, ‘this is the type of learning activity you would create; this is the way to sequentially set up your course; this is the way you can keep people on a learning pathway through Restrict Access and Activity Completion’, and the list goes on,” says Joyce.
We love that there are no limits. Other platforms can do six things really well, but if you want to do things outside that you might be at a lock. With Moodle it’s, “I’m sure Moodle can do this so let me pick up the phone and talk to someone about how this can be done.”
Chris Joyce, Senior Director of Programs at LRCE
Solution – Transforming best practice classroom pedagogy into an online platform in 8 weeks
Over the course of two months, MLC (Moodle US) interacted with LRCE on a daily basis to design and build their online learning platform. They also trained LRCE’s teaching staff and adjunct faculty in how to use the platform and, in particular, how to create both formative and summative assessments, deliver grading and feedback.
“Over 2 months, they empowered us, and our adjuncts to build out our courses. We were always committed to best practices in our classroom pedagogy, but we needed the support of MLC/Moodle US to translate that into an online environment,” says Joyce.
Moodle Workplace was selected as the appropriate solution given the short timeline of the project. Michelle Moore, Head of Customer Success at Moodle US explains, “Because we have great learning design experts and network of contractors, we were able to scale to meet the needs of LRCE quickly. As a team, we put in a lot of hours to help them launch on schedule. They were adapting their entire program on the fly and as they didn’t have the capacity to do all of the course development and user management behind the scenes; we were able to do that for them.”
MLC/Moodle US assisted the LRCE team with managing and translating databases, developing courses from content provided and providing training and assistance as needed to get them up and running as efficiently and effectively as possible. The innovative MLC/Moodle US hybrid hosting solution, “unhosting” was selected to provide LRCE reliability, scalability, ownership and security of their data. Through the “unhosting” control panel, MLC/Moodle US instructional designers were also able to install the necessary plugins without delay on a very time sensitive project.
Joyce says, “We worked very closely with Learning Designer, Ryan Hazen. He speaks both languages. He understands instructional design, teaching strategies and pedagogy, but he also understands Moodle very deeply. So, the combination of working with someone who understands our educational goals as well as the platform meant that we could, and can continue to, accomplish our goals much faster. He has a wealth of experience and resources that he can draw upon at a moment’s notice.”
Utilising a wide range of multimodal activities and resources, LRCE utilises asynchronous delivery for the fundamentals and background knowledge course work while live sessions are dedicated to the analysis, discussion and rehearsal of teaching activities. Moodle’s Restrict Access feature enables LRCE teachers to restrict the availability of any activity or even a course section based on a student meeting certain criteria. This has achieved significant time savings for teachers.
Previously, students submitted assessments across multiple platforms but students now submit within Moodle and this has provided visibility and clarity on, as an example, complex rubrics with up to 8 sections and 40 rows. Within the teaching certification program, course participants are required to upload their lesson plans, video footage and the work their students complete. This is assessed by the LCRE and adjunct team, and each student teacher is provided feedback for each of those elements. In addition to this, the LRCE team now reviews the 100 practitioners or student teacher collective results against the rubric and then analyses that data and the feedback provided to students. This allows the team to identify trends, any misconceptions or gaps in learning and subsequently refine the curriculum and course design to address those gaps – both within the existing cohorts course delivery and to inform improvements to the curriculum for new cohorts.
The analysis of data has also allowed LRCE to create tailored and differentiated content for course participants. As an example, student teachers complete a course on time management as part of their certification program. However, there is some time between students completing the course and finding themselves in the classroom. LRCE identified that there is a subset of teachers who struggle with this important skill despite completing the course. Therefore, they created a tailored course specifically designed to review and consolidate time management skills. Again, this has allowed LRCE teachers to concentrate more deeply on feedback and engagement whilst enabling the delivery of differentiated content particular to a subset of students’ needs.
“We also like Announcements and Activity Completion to help keep our students up to date and on track. Forums really help to encourage discussion and collaborative learning. We love that there are no limits. Other platforms can do six things really well, but if you want to do things outside that you might be at a lock. With Moodle it’s, “I’m sure Moodle can do this so let me pick up the phone and talk to someone about how this can be done,” concludes Joyce.
Results – Informing improved curriculum delivery and impact across the state of Louisiana
After delivery to the 2020 summer cohort, My Learning Consultants did an audit of LRCE Moodle courses and provided input on the quality of delivery and how LRCE could further utilise features available in Moodle to improve instructional design. This has supported a continual process of ongoing improvement. In addition, the Moodle platform has allowed LRCE to extensively utilise data to inform differentiation and improve curriculum design.
The move to online delivery has allowed LRCE to deliver courses to three times as many participants in teaching certification and supplementary qualifications than it did previously through traditional classroom delivery. In turn, this has enabled LRCE to extend its reach and impact across the state of Louisiana.
Finally, in delivering its programs through Moodle, LRCE is assisting teachers to develop their online learning competencies which is in increasing demand for teachers across the United States and globally.
“The fact that our training is delivered via Moodle inherently helps teachers to understand and gain experience in what good online instruction looks like. When we design a course, we want to set up courses that are logical and clear for our learners on what they need to do, and how they will be evaluated for it. In our synchronous lessons, our student teachers also get experience in how to create engaging and meaningful live sessions. Broadly, they gain exposure in how to create a well designed Moodle course as well as how to use other platforms or software that we integrate with Moodle”.
“Not only has Moodle created efficiencies and informed improvements in our delivery, we can now have a greater impact on the teacher workforce in Louisiana than we ever did before,” says Joyce.
Find out more about Moodle US and how they work with US based customers to ensure the success of their online learning project.
To learn more about the Louisiana Research Center for Educators, visit their website.