For public schools, recent events are shining a floodlight on the need for online learning. But picking the right online learning system may be more complicated than you realize.
To be effective, online learning systems need to be built to support public schools, and they need to pave the way for ongoing learning progress.
Want to see how advanced online learning platforms are complementing public schools on a deeper level? In this article, we dive into the ways SmartFox K12 is supporting public school learning and how schools can use online learning to drive better outcomes.
Public Schools Are Moving Online
More than ever, public schools are turning to online learning systems to deliver education. Even before COVID-19 muddled in-person learning, public online learning was becoming more and more the norm.
What’s more, those trends come with recent bursts in both support and resources for online public learning. The U.S. Department of Education recently churned out $180 million to help schools set up for remote learning. Additionally, a 2020 Education Next survey found that 73 percent of parents are now willing to see their child complete courses online.
Public schools are quickly moving online to teach students. But as pressing as the need to transition online may be, picking a basic online system can be a big mistake—one that plagues schools for years, damages institutions’ reputations, and affects countless learners’ lives.
Challenges Facing Schools New to Online Education
Schools may feel pressure to move quickly into public online learning, but there are reasons to proceed with caution. Before launching your new program, it’s worth pausing and considering the challenges that are baked into traditional online learning platforms.
Difficulties of Traditional Learning Management Systems
In online learning, your learning management system (LMS) will be your school’s bread and butter. It’s the system that lets you deliver educational content to students and monitor progress. That means it directly affects learning outcomes, your school’s reputation, and the amount of frustrations school leaders experience daily. Unfortunately, the traditional LMS is known for a few challenges:
- Clunky learning tools: If your school is new to online learning, you’ll want to make the transition as easy on instructors and education leaders as possible. Some LMSs are simply difficult to use. For instance, many LMS platforms don’t integrate with popular learning programs, such as Zoom. At the same time, because most LMS programs operate separately from student information systems (SIS), instructors and staff end up wasting time inputting data in multiple places. When an LMS isn’t intuitive, educators get frustrated, and that distracts from the learning process.
- Lackluster coursework: In order to drive learning, online coursework needs to grab the student’s attention and keep it. Too often, a school will settle for simple online coursework that isn’t personalized and engaging. That can lead to uninspired students and a drop in learning performance.
- Missing measurement capabilities: For your schools to make meaningful progress, you need to be able to see what is getting through to students and what’s holding them back. Simple LMS programs don’t include built-in analytics, so employees are left scrambling to scrape together progress reports on their own.
Difficulties of a Traditional Student Information Systems
If your LMS is the school’s bread and butter, your SIS is its flour and water. That’s to say, it provides the building blocks for ongoing progress, houses crucial figures, and collects the enrollment data you need to keep the school running. Unfortunately, school leaders often run into several problems when they’re using a traditional SIS.
- Limited access to info: Sadly, the traditional SIS can leave administrators with a pile of extra work. Because most SIS systems aren’t integrated with a school’s LMS, it’s usually difficult to pull together all the figures you need to compile reports. Worse yet, when you do track down information—or find another employee to pull it for you— you usually still need to organize that data to build reports.
- Chaotic graduation prep: Counselors rely on the SIS to access transcripts, enrollment data, and other information that’s critical for planning out a student’s path to graduation. Yet traditional SIS platforms tend to make it difficult for counselors to get a hold of organized student data. Those delays in the workday can lead to mistakes or put a heavy burden on counselors—distracting from more valuable work.
- IT nightmares: Too often, schools will pick up basic online learning systems, assuming they can add software or string programs together as they go along. That leads to messes for IT pros, who are left trying to get incompatible systems to work together.
The Trap of Subpar Online Curriculum
Public schools need an online curriculum that meets the standards of regulators and sparks positive learning growth. If it’s watered down or lacks substance, learning suffers and a school’s reputation could dwindle. Equally as important, the online coursework a public school uses can influence the decision of both students and parents to attend school.
Before picking out online curriculum, it is critical that school leaders make sure it’s trustworthy. That means it should make it easy to retain accreditation status, and it should be approved by major regulatory bodies.
How SmartFox K12 Complements Public School Learning
At SmartFox K12, our education experts have experienced the challenges of traditional online learning systems firsthand. That’s why we built a K-12 online learning platform to support public schools. Here are some ways SmartFox K12 is improving public online learning:
1. Quality Curriculum
Our curriculum is built by education and accreditation specialists. As a result, it’s been approved by some of the most stringent regulatory bodies out there, including the University of California system. We’ve also helped public schools design NCAA-approved coursework and use curriculum to secure accreditation.
2. An Integrated LMS+SIS
If public schools want to avoid the headaches of traditional online learning systems, they need a system that simplifies information access. That’s why we designed SmartFox K12 with an integrated LMS+SIS structure. Essentially, information from our platform’s LMS and SIS flows into a single hub. That makes for several big advantages for leaders:
- Administrators: Because information talks across systems, administrators can easily access the data they need for reporting. It’s easy to export reports, access built-in performance analytics, and pass critical figures on to governing bodies.
- Counselors: With graduation planners and easy access to transcripts, counselors spend less time searching for data and more time planning out their students’ futures. Built-in analytics also make it easier to identify academic barriers and course-correct if a student isn’t on the fastest road to accomplishing their goals.
- IT pros: Because systems fit together fluently, IT pros don’t have to waste their day trying to cobble together piecemeal solutions. Also, an integrated system lets school leaders who aren’t technology pros access the information they need without help, so IT pros can focus more energy on improving technology.
3. Ongoing Public School Support
Public online learning requires a special level of support, and SmartFox K12’s platform is set up to provide it. Here’s how:
- Our LMS includes advanced lessons, quizzes, and assignments
- Our LMS integrates with Zoom and Qualtrics
- Classes are self-paced and provide instructive flexibility
- Intuitive technology makes it easier to deliver personalized instruction
4. Marketing and Enrollment Made Easy
For public schools, seamless marketing and enrollment are essential. SmartFox K12 was built with these key needs in mind. In addition to including easy enrollment features, SmartFox K12’s platform integrates with your school’s marketing and enrollment software. That way, education leaders can spend less time reaching out to students and more time improving their lives.
See SmartFox K12 in Action
Before your school jumps into online learning, it’s worth exploring how the best online learning platforms are set up to improve your school. Have questions about how SmartFox K12 can support your public online learning goals? Talk with one of our online learning experts today!
About the Author
Mark is the co-founder of Method Schools and SmartFox and has been working in the marketing and finance areas of K-12 education for two decades. He holds a B.S. in Business from Utah Valley University and an MBA from Brigham Young University. In his spare time he’s usually on his mountain bike.