Q&A: District technology chief discusses new all-in-one Learning Management System


It’s been described as the “technology infrastructure” for continuous improvement, and it has the potential to revolutionize assessment in Irvine.

Over the summer, the IUSD Board of Education approved the purchase and implementation of a computerized Learning Management System that will serve as an all-in-one data warehouse for student information while consolidating other needs, including assessment, training, communication with parents and online collaboration.

It may sound complicated, but the idea is really to streamline the work of teachers and administrators, says Brianne Meyer, IUSD’s chief technology officer. Beginning this year, they’ll be able to quickly and efficiently create customized reports that target the needs of each student. In addition, the platform makes it easy to share best practices and receive online training.

Staff spent nearly a year researching options before a committee of about 50 district employees selected the product made by Schoolnet. Though the system’s cost is pegged at $1.8 million over seven years, part of that price will be offset by onetime federal dollars, and IUSD expects to realize additional savings by eliminating some older systems.

Meyer recently sat down with IUSD NewsFlash to discuss how the new Learning Management System will be implemented, and how it will support student learning.

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Q: Let’s start with the basics. How will the Learning Management System ultimately impact instruction?

A: I think it will simplify each teacher’s ability to assess students, understand where they need to go, access curricular resources and professional development to make that happen, and then reassess. So it creates a cycle of continuous improvement that our district is always looking for, starting with data about who our students are when we get them, how they perform along the way and how they respond to our instruction. Meanwhile, the system will also help teachers collaborate within their grade-level groupings, obtain professional development and ensure that our families stay connected.

Q: Did some of these systems already exist in one form or another?

A: We used to have five or six systems that did a piece of these things, but they were all separate systems that were less sophisticated. That required teachers to spend a lot of their time doing data entry to get information into the system, rather than spending that time accessing meaningful data.

What’s different about this system is that it combines all of those things. It is a data warehouse and a data dashboard. It is a professional development system. It is a curriculum resource library. It is a master curriculum calendar. It can host online classes for students. It is all of these things in one place, and it’s centered on the needs of each teacher. From the moment you log into the system, what you see is everything you need to see as a teacher for that particular day, customized to meet your specific objectives. And the same is true for administrators.

Q: This sounds pretty comprehensive. I imagine you have to be thoughtful and strategic about how it’s rolled out.

A: Because there’s so much to the Schoolnet system, we’re not going to try to do everything at once. We’re starting very small. We have a multi-year implementation plan, and every six months or so we’re introducing a new component to our teachers.

We’re focusing first on those things that are going to save teachers the most time. So for this period of October through January, we’re going to be focused on using the student data that is available to them – a sort of online cumulative folder for each student – in parent conferences. We’re also going to show how to access professional development resources across the district. And then the third thing we’re going to focus on is really how to drill down into state and local assessment data in order to make use of it in the classroom.

Q: Have any staff members had a chance to use the Learning Management System? Any early reviews?

A: Yes, and the early reviews have been great.

We met with representatives from every school in the final week of September. They came in for three days of training, and they were really, really excited. They were so excited, in fact, that we were encouraging them to focus on those three core areas and they wanted to do everything. Some of them have already started introducing it to teachers at their sites. But on Oct. 17 we’ll have about 300 teachers attending a mini-conference where they’ll receive training and get an introduction to the system.

For us it’s just been a really exciting project to see the way it’s been received by the sites, and to see how excited teachers and principals are getting when they really get into the system. People are telling us, “This system has the answer to that one question I always wanted to know about my kids,” and “This is something that used to take me 20 or 30 hours, and now I can do it in five minutes.” That’s what’s been exciting for us, and we’re thrilled to be moving forward with it.