CLRN eLearning Census: District Reflections on Digital Learning Implementations

Among the most notable information within CLRN’s California 2014 eLearning Census, which we discussed late last week, is the section titled “What Districts & Charters Would Do Differently.” CLRN asked respondents what they would change in their program implementation given what they know now, without providing any multiple-choice options for responses. All answers were entirely respondent-generated. Seventy-one districts responded to this question. By my count, exactly one said they wished they had gone more quickly (although several said they wouldn’t change what they did). All others either say directly that they wished they had taken more time, or say they wished they had done things (e.g. involve more stakeholders) that would likely have required more time, or additional effort.

CLRN’s analysis of the comments includes the following:

  • “17% (of respondents) would be more systemic in their initial planning: including more stakeholders, starting earlier, performing more research, and reviewing more options.”
  • “33% would have been much more careful in their course selection. These districts wished they had been more thorough, looking at more publishers, seeking more input, examining more courses, and negotiating harder with publishers.”
  • “11% of districts wished they had prepared their staff better for the transition into online or blended learning, providing more professional development to a larger group of people.”

In addition to the summary numbers, a few suggestions especially stood out as consistent with the implementations we have examined:

  • “Start earlier. Have greater input from stakeholders.”
  • “Build it into the actual school vision and plan.”
  • “Choose teachers who are more willing to adapt to new learning models. Teacher enthusiasm, eagerness to innovate, and thinking out of the box are important to success of the blended model.”
  • “[L]ook for a program specific to K-5 and then a program specific to 6-8 as opposed to looking for one program that cover[s] all grade levels.”
  • “[Develop] an implementation guide of processes and procedures at all sites before starting the program. This guide will include roles and responsibilities of the teachers and administrators.
  • “[E]xamine more programs and have the students use them first to determine ease of use and suitability.
  • “[D]evelop clearly defined procedures and protocols beyond what the provider/publisher recommends. Teachers and administration would be trained and sign an agreement to follow the protocols.”
  • [Run] trials of more vendors.

The summary findings of the census  are going to be particularly useful for researchers and policymakers, but every educator considering implementing or growing a digital program should review the “what we would do differently” section of the report to find the pitfalls to avoid.