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Learning – Winston-Salem/Forsyth School District in North Carolina

September 08, 2016

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (WSFC) is the fourth-largest school district in North Carolina, serving 53,000 students. They chose PowerSchool Learning (LMS) as their learning platform in the summer of 2015, rolling it out as an optional initiative in their 81-school district.

Overview

The challenge was to find a learning management system that meets the needs of the district: teachers can easily collaborate and share content, it integrates seamlessly with Google Apps for Education, and anyone can use it, regardless of their previous experience with technology.

Solution

When they evaluated options— including the state-recommended learning platform Canvas—the district determined that PowerSchool Learning best fit their educational objectives and was the easiest to learn for everyone.

Results

Here’s a quick snapshot of some early successes in WSFC:

  • Over 1,400 classes created in the first 10 days of school!
  • Over 3,000 active classes and almost 15,000 unique users after two months!
  • Other-than-academic usage:
    • Finance department is using a class to collect payroll forms
    • Accountability department is using a class for testing plans
    • Senior staff is using a class for weekly meetings and Board of Ed meetings
    • Program managers and coaches are using classes to share resources, pacing guides, and benchmark timelines for subject specific

According to Heather Horton, the Director of Digital Teaching and Learning at WSFC, the success can be attributed to choosing the right technology and having a carefully planned implementation.

“I’ve always been a believer that [PowerSchool Learning] is easy to use. It’s just so intuitive… We hit the ground running, getting people on board without any training. Every department got really creative about how they could use it,” said Horton.

Next, they took a unique approach to implementation. While many districts introduce teachers to a new learning platform during back-to-school orientations, WSFC chose to first train their instructional leaders and coaches over the summer.

“As [instructional leaders] saw the usefulness of [PowerSchool Learning], we helped them create resource sites for each content area and move all curriculum resources to those classes,” said Horton. “Teachers were able to join the class created by our instructional leaders and find resources aligned to their current units of study.”

Another key to success was early buy- in from district leaders. In August, Horton and her team held information sessions with administrators, where they demonstrated how administrators could use PowerSchool Learning to effectively communicate with staff, model best practices for teachers, and facilitate training and faculty meetings.

Horton told her colleagues, “Don’t just think of a learning platform as a ‘student- teacher’ tool. Think of it as an ‘editor- reader’ tool.”

What’s Next?

The district has plans for future training spread out over several sessions as teachers go deeper into the platform.

In addition, they have plans for a PowerSchool Learning Ambassador program. Each school will train a representative to be an “expert” in PowerSchool Learning and take that knowledge back to their school to help lead ongoing training and professional development.

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