A visit to a leading UK ‘public’ boarding school (one of our elite private charitable Trusts) this week highlighted a new challenge for school leaders desperately trying to catch up to the ‘new norm’ of managing hundreds of hours of online lessons. To deliver them safely and effectively has been one major hurdle that many have largely overcome. But to ‘track’ them, keep accurate assessment records, and to ensure that the right students are always turning up at the right time and on the right platform is another challenge. To date, there is no software package that can do this.
Schools are often using multiple platforms – Zoom, Teams, Webex, as well as our own X20 Virtual Learning Classroom – to deliver 80-100 lessons per day. In normal times, teachers would note any absentees and advise school managers of this as soon as possible, or load the information straight into an MIS system. Assessment marks for work delivered would be handled in the same way, along with any detention slips or special considerations, such as absence with leave from lessons for peripatetic music lessons. In the better schools, this is usually quickly done and with the records loaded onto the school database, the teacher can relax and focus on the lesson at hand. But the new norm is creating administrative challenges to keep all of this on track.
A key challenge for the teacher is time. When schools operate normally, students move around the school site between lessons, a space often employed by the teacher in record keeping. The online world doesn’t have this space. What time there is can frequently be spent ensuring the next online lesson has all the technology working; the lighting in the room is adequate; the sound is ok and the lesson materials are loaded up and ready to go. Logging the records of attendance and assessment etc falls way down the list of priorities – when it should be close to the top.
As the IT manager at the school I visited said: “ It all looks very ordered from the students’ point of view, but behind the scenes its quite chaotic. And of course it is not helped by the fact that the teachers are also working remotely. We’ve got away with haphazard record keeping during the pandemic because our focus has been on delivering lessons. That’s been the most important. But we don’t know what the situation is going to be like in September and we have to plan for the fact that we could be forced back online at any time during the school year. Then our record keeping is going to have to be exemplary. We need some help.”
The comment echoed an inquiry received this week from an American high school. They wanted software that would enable them to print off what they intriguingly called “tardy slips” and for such recalcitrant students to be able to self-check-in, generating a database for latecomers. Preferably, that should be integrated with registration processes when parents come to collect children as well as check-in functionality for visitors. This has stimulated thinking about software to manage online management and record-keeping processes, particularly where multiple platforms are involved.
The challenge would be to create software to ease the administrative load on both the teachers and the school managers. Could a way be found to capture all data about student attendance and performance, no matter what platform was in use? Could it be automatically logged into a student’s digital file and simultaneously into the teacher’s class record files? Could it be easily accessed when Inspectors visit? Could it be sent on to parents where the teacher or school management thought it necessary? And all with a minimum of time and effort for the teacher?
This is the challenge.
The opportunity is out there, for both large and small, innovative software developers.
ASIS Education is willing to work alongside you to help in understanding exactly the needs of the whole school community to ensure that the right technology solution can be created to deliver this most important function. If you succeed, tens of thousands of teachers will be so grateful.