In episode 2 of The Moodle Podcast, Abby Fry talks to Chris Joyce, Senior Director of Programs at The Louisiana Research Center for Educators to learn how LRCE worked with Moodle Certified Service Provider, My Learning Consultants (now Moodle US) to transform years of curriculum content into Moodle courses, establish a scalable online infrastructure, and train their teaching workforce to use the Moodle platform.
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Abby Fry 0:11
Welcome to episode two of the middle Podcast. Today I'm really pleased to be having a chat with Chris Joyce. Chris is the Senior Director of Programs at the Louisiana Research Center for Educators. So firstly, Chris, welcome, and thanks for joining me on the Moodle podcast.
Chris Joyce 0:28
Hi Abby how's it going?
Abby Fry 0:30
Chris, I'm really looking forward to this chat, as I'm extremely impressed that your education institution was able to transform many, many years of traditional classroom delivery into a great online learning program in what I believe was just eight weeks, and train staff on how to use the platform. It's a great story. But before we get into it, can you tell our listeners a little bit about the Louisiana Research Center for Educators.
Chris Joyce 0:59
So LRC is the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, we've been around since 2003. It was originally founded just as one like a resource library for teachers in the area to be able to get books or materials, supplies, math manipulatives, like all the types of stuff that teachers need, but schools don't always have. And then over time, we started doing more professional development. We started our teacher certification program in 2006. So for the last 15 years or so one of the main things that LRC has done is the work that we're mostly focused on now, which is as, you know, post baccalaureate teacher certification program for those in Louisiana. And then I think the the other piece to it is that, you know, when, when COVID-19, you know, came through all of our training in the past had been in person primarily in the Baton Rouge Louisiana area. So if you were a teacher within driving distance, and you felt you could do this every single day, over the course of seven weeks, during the summer, you would be able to do it. And then when everything went virtual, we had to go virtual too. So we had, you know, 150 people signed up to come through our teacher training in thesummer of 2020, and had to make some real quick decisions and build out our learning platform in a short amount of time.
Abby Fry 2:44
Wow, that's heavy pressure Chris, I imagine many institutions found themselves in a similar place when COVID hit, can you take us through the journey?
Chris Joyce 2:54
So we had to make a decision. First of all, what is this going to look like? I mean, there's a couple of different models that we could have gone with, you know, some of the competition does it completely asynchronously, where they just assign coursework, people complete the coursework, we give them feedback, and you can kind of just work at your own pace, there's more of a hybrid model, which is what we ended up doing, where they have an asynchronous component of the pre work and the post work, but there's a live session that's done on zoom with a, you know, a real person sitting here like I am, teaching that class. And so that's what we we went with. One of the things that LRC had always been known for, was our ability to build great relationships with people and really have that like one on one personal touch. And we felt that if we had gone completely asynchronously, then it wouldn't have had that same type of field that we were looking for. But this way, we, we've been able to set up our coursework in a way where a lot of the background knowledge, the fundamentals to why we do what we do, can be taught ahead of time so that by the time that we're in our, you know, live sessions, we can focus more on the analysis in the rehearsal, part of our work in the discussion, and then our practitioners have the opportunity afterwards to then be able to submit their work assignments, whether that's a video or written work and and be able to get feedback on that. One of the things that really drew us to Moodle in the first place was one the availability of My Learning Consultants to be able to support us in getting this like we did in 26 days. We went from a you know, a program where Everything was done in person. And in 26 days, we were able to, you know, set up Moodle for our organization and and re enroll this out. Now, that was a year and a half ago. And we've learned a lot along the way and refined the model, I'm still learning something new about Moodle every week, really. And so we used basically December through May of this year to refine our curriculum to make it better. With all of what we've learned we were able to update our platform to be better. And then we were able to execute that version this summer. And the the ability to do this online also led us to be able to include a new cohort of teachers that we haven't had before. Before, people would come every day for seven weeks in the summer, and every day for seven weeks in the in the fall. No sessions were happening during the day. Well, as you can imagine, if you are wanting to be a teacher, and you have a job, or other responsibilities, it's really hard to just take off work for that period of time, so that you can do the program. So this offered us the flexibility to be able to open up our courses so that we could do them in the evening, twice a week throughout the entirety of the school year, rather than in the intensive time period.
Abby Fry 6:34
What's the impact of that Chris?
Chris Joyce 6:37
Oh, we have three times as many people coming through . So we, we had 25 people come through in the fall of 2020. And we have 67 that are coming through right now doing the new network. And then the other major thing that we've been able to do was our special education program, we also offer a an add on certification. So someone that's already certified and teaching, say, you know, elementary, they want to get that special ed specific certification, we can do just that. And we used to do that every summer. But we were able to start doing this last spring. So we have a cohort of people that come through in one semester in the evenings and a couple of Saturdays, and they walk out after you know, five months, but they're a special education degree. And so now we run that spring cohort, a summer cohort and a fall cohort. And when we used to only be able to support say, you know, 20 perspective, special educators, we're now doing about 75 a year.
Abby Fry 7:44
So big jumps in numbers, has it delivered you other benefits?
Chris Joyce 7:49
As an organization, we pride ourselves and working towards increasing educational equity across Louisiana. And before, we could really only have an impact in the area around us. And now, because we can support anybody in the state where the a lot of the rural parishes or counties, they haven't had access to high quality teacher development before. And now, we now we have that option in our have been to increase our cohorts from different places in the state now.
Abby Fry 8:27
And so your student teachers are now using an online platform in their own teacher training. Do you think that has an impact for their students, that is, once that start teaching in a classroom?
Chris Joyce 8:39
Teachers certainly increasingly have have had to have that in their back pocket. And I think before it might be, you know, a best practice or something that, you know, good teachers would be able to use an online platform themselves to be able to support their own students, but it wasn't necessarily something that they had to do, or even were, were, I guess, like, strongly encouraged to do. But now because we've seen more and more students in schools opt to have a virtual program. We've seen schools where just because of COVID (where they're in and out of quarantine) - this ability to be able to deliver the high quality instruction on online platform is increasingly a greater part of their job and the fact that our training both in understanding what from a design perspective, this should look like right like because we as we design our courses in Moodle, we have our teachers in mind, we want this to be set up in a way that it's very clear to the user. What they need to do, and how ultimately they will be evaluated for it. And then when it comes to our live sessions, they then see us modeling for them what online learning can be. We're half a world apart right now, it really is no different than if I was with you in person like talking to someone down the street and the way in which I would deliver a session right now you know, displays for them the best way to engage the person on the other side of the camera no matter where they are, and, and how to use Moodle and the other technology platforms that we use in conjunction with Moodle for for our practitioners learning experience.
Abby Fry 10:44
Okay, well, let's talk for a little while about the project. I know you've worked with Moodle, Certified Service Provider MLC, which for our listeners has now become Moodle US, but what came first Moodle, the platform or choosing a service provider?
Chris Joyce 11:01
We were looking at a variety of different platforms at that time. To to be totally transparent, I was not a part of the team at that exact moment. I was hired on that summer, I was actually a principal time and and the person who was in my shoes before was like Chris, we're leaving this, this work online really quickly. And I'll need some extra help, can you come coach some of my people and take up some side hustle work? Well, side hustle became the real job in a couple of months. But from my understanding at the time, as we were looking at different platforms, I don't know chicken or egg, which one came first in terms of My Learning Consultants. But I do know that the main reason why we ended up going with Moodle was also because of the partnership with My Learning Consultants. And the fact that there was not just a platform available and what we liked about the platform, but that there was a team of people that were dedicated to hold our hand through this process, as none of us really have that much of a background and how to build something like this out (basically there was two two members of our team, the person who's in my position now and my colleague, Bethany whose same title, but for operations). Michelle walked us through all of the time, every single step along the way, with what we were trying to build, Michelle was there to say like this is this is how you need to accomplish that like this is the type of learning activity you would do. This is the way in which you need to set up the course so that people would be able to work their way through it. This is the way in which you can keep people on that same path through restrictions and activity completion to really know what that look like. And so over the course of those two months, both the month leading into our Institute and the month of Institute was pretty much daily interaction getting the courses online and live and then there was the component of supporting our adjunct faculty with the way in which they gave feedback grading, all of that type of stuff, so that not everything had to run through the LRC team. They empowered our adjuncts too and a bunch of writers at that time because we had to get all this work from the in person live types of sessions online.
Abby Fry 13:49
So that's a big job taking all that content and transforming it into an online experience.
Chris Joyce 13:56
Oh for sure. For sure. And this is also just us learning how to take the the work that we knew was engaging in lead to teacher mastery in person and figure out how to do that in the online space. But then I think that like when it was all over that's when like we were able to get My Learning Consultants to do an audit though several of our courses and just at that point being like okay, we've checked off the box.. Now, let's start looking at like the quality of the work in are you using the platform for all that it has to offer. That was a really great experience just to to go from almost like the basic version to the like, better than basic not quite advanced . So, okay, how can we fit our very specific theory of what teacher training is into this particular world and continually just try to think about the, the ease of use from, from a teacher's perspective. For some of our people, they haven't been to school in 20 years, you know, we have second career people coming - lawyers for instance who may think, "I'm tired of that, or I want to make more of a difference." And so they're like, I'm gonna teach. And then they decided to do that in the middle of a pandemic, and their technology skills, were suspect at best for quite a few people. So we had to just always ensure that like, as we're setting up a course or as we're thinking about those, would someone who does not have a ton of technology experience be able to navigate this, clearly. And then at the same time, are we able to get the information that we need to make informed decisions based off of the way in which we're setting this up?
Abby Fry 16:11
So you talking about making informed decisions Chris, are we talking about looking at or understanding data?
Chris Joyce 16:19
LRCs virtual hybrid program 2.0 has so much more of that of the data behind what our practitioners are doing and what they know, and have allowed us to, to make really informed decisions.
Abby Fry 16:37
That's interesting, so data is in fact informing, improving delivery of your curriculum. Can you give me a specific example perhaps?
For the people who are in the second phase of our program? They are in the classroom right now. We had, we have seminars every quarter for those folks. So they, they just finished up a Saturday with us in September. As a result, like as an outcome of that session and on assessment titles and responding to student work. We taught them, what they needed to do with that, and then they go into their own classrooms, and they enact that skill, and they submit their lesson plan for it, they submit the student work from that lesson, they omit the video recording of them in all into Moodle. So then our team then is able to have our coaches go in and give feedback to all of those different documents. Our LRC team, not just the adjuncts is then able to take a look at the 100 practitioners that are going through our program. And then, you know, the rubric, and the criteria for success for that particular skill has six or seven different components to it. We're then able to take those data out and the feedback associated with it. And then we're basically able then to lead a, like a student work data analysis type of meeting to figure out what's the overall trend that our folks were able to implement really well? What are the major misconceptions that are still out there? What either in our teaching or in our in the curriculum itself lead to those misconceptions, and then we're able to then come up with an action plan for intervention for the people that still had not mastered that skill, when are we going to be able to reteach this? You know, and then, or spiral it into to work that they'll be doing in the future. And prior to, to this, you know, even if we were live in person, we would not have been able to get that specific.
It sounds like you're saying that the move to online delivery has actually allowed LRC to differentiate or improve how you're designing your courses?
Chris Joyce 19:14
Oh, yeah, for sure. I think we're just be so much better able to streamline the like one, like the foundational aspect of our program, we are able to collect way more data than we ever were able to before so we can make far more informed decisions. We then are able to differentiate and create smaller groups and smaller courses or copy over work for people to do independently on their own. I think a good example of this, you know, is as a first year teacher, so many people struggle with time management and organization. And so before they even start our program, we created an asynchronous course about time management and together a teacher togetherness. And so all of our practitioners go through that course. And they learned some skills. Well, it's been a little while, and now they're in the classroom and what we saw was that there was a subset of people that were still really, really struggling with that skill. So we created a new course, that was specific for our coaches, to then be able to have them understand exactly the the scope of learning that they've had in the past, but then we can build on it, specifically, for those people that we're still struggling and create, with probably like, you know, 92 minutes to two hours worth of time, this this new route for our people to because we've identified an ongoing skill gap that they have. And I think if we were going from a in person learning perspective, I think, like, it might not have taken that long to create that type of work. But what would have been forever was trying to organize that group of people to be in the same room together to learn that skill, or trying to ensure that our coaches are then able to have you know, 20 different meetings to teach that skill?
Abby Fry 21:23
And MLC Chris, how did they assist you with this work? I know, you worked with both Michelle and Ryan, what did you value in the process?
Chris Joyce 21:33
I really appreciated about working with Ryan has been one, he speaks both languages. So and when I say that, I mean, he understands the the teacher side of things and the instructional decisions. But he also speaks the language of Moodle. So like, to be able to, to work with somebody that at a very high level understands what you're trying to do instructionally with the people that you're teaching, while also really understanding the platform allows for that partnership in that collaborative way to really get at the root of what we're trying to accomplish a lot faster. In the fact that he's done it himself has then he's got a, you know, a ton of different examples and sample courses that he'll be like, let me show you how to do that real quick. And there's that flexibility. One of the other pieces that's great about is just like the availability, you know, now that we're in this new ish phase of our work, where we've got the core down, I don't necessarily need a every week type of touch point. But there's the flexibility to be able to just reach out and sign up for time on his calendar. And we can then spend, you know, 20 minutes, have him show me or I'll actually usually just share my screen, and then he'll walk me through it. And then I'll be able to set it up for for other courses. I mean, that's also just like, where the audits have come in into play. It's just the, the being able to look at our own work and do exactly what we do with our teachers, but they do with us is, is really just get to the strengths and areas of growth and give us really great feedback to help us build and make our courses better. I think oftentimes, when I've worked in the past with other consultants or platforms, yeah, people can show you what you want them to do. But I think the gift really comes with the feedback and the eye for the instructional design. So it's not just that they're showing us how to use the platform, but they're giving us feedback on the way in which we're implementing it.
Abby Fry 23:55
I mean, you guys have achieved a huge amount, where to from now for LRC?
Chris Joyce 24:01
Absolutely. I mean, we're definitely on the other side of of the learning curve. At this point. We're definitely focused more on refinement and quality, then just figuring out how to make this work. And we're super excited about it, because I think we're delivering a better product when it comes to teacher training than we were before. And the feedback that we're giving to our people is better and more individualized than ever was before. And then I think our biggest thing is that we really now can have a greater impact on the teacher workforce in Louisiana across the board than we ever were before. It was very limiting both in time and location to a certain subgroup of people. And now we can increase access in other places and help our historically underserved communities be able to get better teachers, which is ultimately what we're about as an organization to begin with.
Abby Fry 24:57
I think that's a really fitting place to conclude our conversation, Chris, it's really lovely to hear that the project has had an impact on improving teacher quality in Louisiana. Look, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for joining me today and I look forward to chatting to you, hopefully in the future.
Chris Joyce 25:16
Yeah, take care have a good one.
Abby Fry 25:18
And thanks to everyone who has listened to our chat. If you'd like to learn more about LRC, please visit them at their website LRCE.org. Or if you'd like to know more about Moodle, please come and visit us at our website at Moodle.com
Thanks for joining us and look out for episode next month. Bye everyone.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai