Naperville School District 203 updates its e-learning policy    

child in front of computer doing e-learning
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Naperville School District 203 has an updated e-learning plan on its books, following a recent affirmative vote from the board of education.

Revisions include new protocols for synchronous learning, where teachers across all grade levels will hold 30-minute morning sessions at the same time with all students.

Administrators also received board approval to have in place a requirement that teachers hold at least two office hour sessions — typically one in the morning and one in the afternoon — for students to ask questions about coursework within the instructional day.

E-learning update required once every three years   

The Illinois State Board of Education requires school districts review and update their e-learning plans at least once every three years. Once the board green lights the proposed plan, it is sent on to the regional office of education for review and final approval.

Jayne Willard, District 203’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, recently discussed the rationale behind e-learning days — even in a post-COVID environment — as the district continues to try harnessing the benefits of technology.

“(Virtual days) allow us the flexibility and an option to leverage e-learning, should we want to throughout the school year,” Willard said at a board of education meeting on Monday, June 17, which is the date the plan was approved.

“It provides a consistent end date to the school year for students, family and our staff,” Willard added. “It streamlines instructional days, with fewer interruptions of days off for snow, weather or, in some cases, elections.”

While there are benefits to e-learning days, from the standpoint of maintaining a structural school year calendar, Willard and other administrators said the tried-and-true educational practices remain core to the district.

“We know that this does not replace a face-to-face, full day of learning,” Willard said. “We also know that this is hopefully something we don’t have to access often, but we know that we have to have the ability at certain times, so we make it our mission to make it the best that we can, with the tech that we have.”

D203 survey says…

Prior to presenting recommendations, District 203 officials in May sent out a survey to students, staff and parents and guardians to gauge the general sentiment within each respondent group of the district’s e-learning practices, to date, and what improvements could be implemented.

In general, the responses to the specific questions were positive. For instance, when asked if they preferred an e-learning day or a makeup day (with an extension to the school year), nearly three-fourths — 74.63% — of student respondents opted for the e-learning day.

Teachers gave a higher response to the same question, with 88.17% of the professionals responding, “yes.”

Parents provided more mixed responses to the various survey questions, with results varying between elementary, junior high and high school grades. Respondents in this group, in general, said they desired more interaction with faculty and greater clarity in the expectations on an e-learning day.

According to district figures, 6,460 students took the survey, 1,327 teachers participated and 2,479 parents or guardians offered up feedback.

Board President Kristine Gericke said she was pleased with the broad array of responses.

“Having those results in front of me — it just gives me concrete information,” Gericke said. “It’s not just reading tea leaves or basing it on one or two people. It’s there, and everybody had the chance to fill (the survey) out.”

Responses played role in changes   

Willard in her recent discussion of the revised e-learning plan said survey responses played a part in implementing changes.

“The feedback we received has been instrumental in identifying key challenges and areas for improvement,” Willard said.

The introduction of 30-minute morning sessions and dedicated synchronous periods for all students in a classroom were borne out of some of the themes in the survey.

“These revisions are designed to enhance the e-learning experience, ensuring students receive consistent, high-quality education in emergencies that also takes into consideration all feedback from the three groups that we surveyed,” Willard said.

In the months ahead, District 203 also plans updates to its e-learning website, with added information, including tech support if students are having difficulty on a e-learning day.

“We definitely know we need clearer language with tech support,” Willard said. “We need to make that more transparent and accessible to our parents.”

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