Student experience and school culture are the foundational elements that support positive learning outcomes. If these essential components are not rock-solid, learners can tune out, and all of your school’s online learning efforts can crumble.
Fortunately, the latest online technology, paired with some best practices, can solidify your school’s culture and help ignite even more positive learning outcomes. In this article, we dig into the best ways to use technology to improve school culture and explore ways to elevate the online student experience.
How Does Online Student Experience Influence School Culture?
When done right, online learning can spark powerful experiences. However, a positive online learning environment requires leaders to be hyper-focused on a few key areas. Here are some factors that will drastically affect a distance learner’s experience and your online school culture:
- Engagement: Especially in an online setting, students need to stay engaged with classmates, instructors, and advisors—without interruption. They also need to feel a connection with learning content that captures and holds their attention.
- Online community connections: Just as with in-person schooling, students need to feel like they’re a part of a caring community online to learn effectively. That’s why successful schools will build a caring and safe online community that’s easy to participate in.
- Technology access: For learning to take root, technology needs to be seamless for instructors, students, and school leaders. Slow or spotty technology can interrupt the learning process and cause frustration. When students can’t access education resources, it’s natural for them to tune out, fall behind, and sour your school’s culture.
What’s Threatening School Culture?
Unfortunately, there are several threats to school culture that are frequent in an online school setting. Especially for schools that are transitioning online, these common problems could sabotage your students’ experiences:
Ineffective Learning Management Systems
In online learning, it’s critical to keep students connected and engaged. Alarmingly, most learning management systems (LMS) end up distracting learners and leaders. Because many traditional LMSs are unintuitive and difficult to use, they can intimidate school leaders and disrupt the learning process.
At the same time, not all LMS systems are letting instructors deliver the personalized attention learners need. Basic systems often leave instructors with limited tools, and they have little choice but to deliver instruction that isn’t targeted. Instead, students need an LMS that adjusts to their individual learning styles, needs, and learning pace.
Finally, most LMS programs make it difficult to track and analyze student performance. If the system doesn’t help instructors and counselors pinpoint academic barriers, students can easily fall through the cracks, lag behind, and even miss out on their dreams.
Student Information System (SIS) Problems
It might not be the most obvious part of online learning, but capturing and managing information through an efficient student information system (SIS) is critical to student and school success.
In order to keep students engaged and improve school culture, counselors need access to easy enrollment and clear tracks to postsecondary opportunities. Otherwise, students who have negative experiences will feel cheated, and they’ll drag down students around them.
Also, in order to ensure a safe and comfortable setting for students, school leaders need clear safety data. They also need bullying data and online avenues for students to report unsafe behavior. Sadly, because most SISs lock down information, it can be difficult for leaders to access the info they need to promote online safety.
Limited Mobile Capabilities
To promote the best school culture, students need to be able to learn when, where, and how they want. In today’s learning environment, that makes mobile compatibility a must-have for your online learning platform. Yet most online learning systems aren’t built for mobile devices.
This oversight becomes a major threat to school culture when you consider how prevalent mobile use has become. According to a Common Sense Media survey, more than half of all children have a smartphone by age 11, and 84 percent of teenagers have their own mobile device. Simply put, students are comfortable with their mobile devices. If they can’t access learning material from their phones and tablets, they’ll tune out quickly.
Worse yet, if an online platform isn’t built for mobile, it could cut off learners and prevent students from learning altogether. One study found almost a quarter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t have a computer to work on. That means these students could easily be left isolated and unable to connect with or add to the online learning community.
How Does Better Technology Equal Better School Culture?
Fortunately, there are ways the right technology can boost school culture. Here are three ways to use technology to improve the online student experience and strengthen culture:
1. Use Technology to Build Relationships
It’s simple: The deeper relationships you can build and maintain online, the stronger your school’s culture will be. Technology can help. If you choose an online system that includes an intuitive LMS, students will have no problem connecting when and where they want. Effective LMSs will also include access to programs instructors are comfortable using, such as Zoom.
Additionally, there are online learning platforms that are mobile-ready and built to keep school culture intact. Mobile-compatible systems provide access to education and direction from anywhere. You can use mobile-ready platforms to deliver targeted direction to students and encourage more meetings. And, because students can access direction from anywhere, they’re more likely to stay engaged.
2. Use Technology to Give Students Attention
If you want students to have the best online learning experience possible, personalized attention is critical. And the right technology will make it easier to deliver attention than in traditional classrooms.
By accessing an LMS that includes built-in analytics, teachers and counselors can quickly identify academic barriers. Also, self-paced learning programs can help prevent students from feeling isolated or falling behind. Because students can learn at their own pace, they don’t feel neglected, and they enjoy a more productive learning experience.
3. Use Data to Improve Culture
Alarmingly, worries about school safety are on the rise. These fears can distract from education and hurt your school’s culture. However, with the right technology, it’s now possible to access the data your leaders need to understand and address safety concerns.
By unlocking built-in analytics and thorough reporting, education leaders will have the tools to create bullying reports, implement safety updates, and build a safer community. In turn, students will feel the comfort and safety they need to learn.
Learn More About SmartFox K12 Technology
At SmartFox K12, we built an online platform to help educators deliver quality education and a better student experience. Here are some ways SmartFox K12 is built to help educators lead:
- LMS+SIS integration: Because our learning management system and student information system are integrated, information flows into a clean hub. That makes it easier to break down academic barriers, access information, and focus on progress.
- Intuitive tools: With intuitive student dashboards and popular programs like Zoom built into the platform, it’s easier for students to interact and stay engaged.
- Mobile design: Our dynamic design lets students and leaders connect from their mobile devices when and where they want.
- Graduation tracks: Counselors and administrators have easy access to the student data they need to pave a clear path to graduation and to help students achieve other goals.
- Self-paced learning: Students can learn at their own pace and receive personalized learning without putting extra burdens on your instructors.
Want to see exactly how SmartFox K12 online learning works? Read all about SmartFox K12 here.
About the Author
Jade was born and raised in San Diego, CA as one piece of a very large extended family, making her well suited to the world of education. She has several years of experience working in hybrid learning environments, and studied Literatures in English at UCSD before pursuing her teaching credential. After several years of teaching, Jade received her Masters degree in Teaching. She loves the challenge that teaching provides.