6 Simple tips to ensure elearning success at your school

Are you trying to make a success of your school’s elearning efforts, but students are just not taking to it? Here’s what you may be doing wrong.

I have a colleague who works at an educational institute that recently decided to go the elearning route.

They installed a Moodle Learning Management System (LMS), uploaded some study guides (in PDF format), and then made a call to each student, informing them about the LMS.

Two months later, my colleague sent me this note:

“Hey Bilal! We are in a desperate situation: only around 50 out of 5000 students have accessed the LMS. These numbers are pathetic – about 1% of the student population! We can’t say the students don’t know about it – we made a personal call to every single one of them. What went wrong? Please advise!”

What went wrong?

What went wrong is this: students were not engaging with the LMS because they were not receiving any additional value on the LMS.

To get students using the LMS, the school has to do better than PDF documents. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them to use the LMS. They simply will not use it unless there is something worth going online for.

This is not a unique situation. Most educational institutes initially have the same challenge: students do not engage with the online content. As a result, their efforts at going elearning fail.

6 Simple tips to increase student engagement with the LMS

The following are 5 easy steps to increase student engagement that any institute can apply.

  1. Start small: Start with a pilot rollout. Offer a single course online.
  2. Get teacher buy-in: If the teachers are not comfortable with the new technology, the students will never be. Give teachers all the support, guidance and training they need to get comfortable with technology.
  3. Provide value: Provide content that will actually provide value to the students. Provide a lot of videos, graphics, infographics, animations  and the like. Students will love it. The best part is there are tonnes of content available online for free.
  4. Encourage interaction: Teachers need to create engagement through interaction. They need to provide opportunities for students to interact with the LMS and with each other. They can use forums, quizzes, chats and group tasks. Here’s a tip: answer all student questions on the forums.
  5. Continuous improvement: Identify student challenges, and find solutions, continuously improve.
  6. Scale up: gradually take more and more courses online.

Conclusion

Implementing elearning at schools will undoubtedly provide a lot of benefits to students as well as teachers, but it can get tricky.

In essence, it is digital transformation, and digital transformation is not a simple and trivial process. It takes time, effort and resources.

What makes this situation more challenging at schools, is that the transformation needs to take place on two levels: at the institutional level, and at student level.

The good news is, using a strategic and phased approach, we can achieve it. We just need to remember a simple, golden rule:

Start small, scale up

How much bandwidth is enough for schools?

How fast internet is ideal for schools? This is a tricky question that has many schools stumped. I will try to shed some light based on my experiences.

As more and more schools shift towards technology-enhanced learning, they set up powerful Learning Management Systems (LMS), provide learners with beautiful tablet PC’s, acquire amazing digital content and get ready to step into the future of learning.

But then something horrible happens: everything crashes because the internet is too slow. They are dead in the water without decent internet speeds. So then the question arises: how much speed is ideal?

Internet speed guide for schools

The speed requirements for any institute will be mainly dependant on two variables:

  1. Number of concurrent students: the keyword here is ‘concurrent’. What this means is the maximum number of students that will be using the internet at any given time.
  2. Type of usage: how will the students use the internet? Will they use it just for browsing, or will they streaming videos as well? Will the content be primarily offline (apps, local server), or will it be online?

The starting point will be to establish the above at your question, and then make a decision from there.

As an example, let’s say your school has 1000 students, all of whom will be on campus at the same time. In other words, you have 1000 concurrent users. You will require the following amounts of bandwidth:

Bandwidth guidelines for schools

Not All Schools are the Same

Of course, the above are guidelines based on my experience, and may or may not apply to your school. Additionally, there may be budgetary constraints that prevent you from implementing the ideal speeds; or perhaps higher speeds are just not available in your area.

What I would recommend, is to start off with a low speed fibre line, perhaps 40 Meg, and see how it works out for you. If you need more, you can always increase the speed.

The great thing about fibre is that the speed can be changed within 24 hours. There is no need for any additional infrastructure upgrades.

How to save on internet costs

If you are based in South Africa, there is an e-rate legislation that entitles educational institutes to a 50% discount on bandwidth. The Icasa website defines it as follows:

“E-rate” means the discount of no less than 50% applicable to public schools or public further training colleges, or any other independent schools or private further education and training colleges, as may be declared, to be entitled to the discount for utilising internet services provided by a licensee.

Click here for more information on this.

Conclusion

Trying to figure out how fast internet your institution needs, is like asking the question:’how long is a piece of string’. It’s very difficult to answer up front. There are some guidelines to help you decide, such as the recommended 1Gig per second per 1000 students, as you saw in the diagram above.

Most importantly, you need to do what works for your school. You can do this by starting small, and then increasing the speed until you find the sweet spot between speed and affordability.