Navigate: Describe Roles and Functions in Online Learning Environments Quest

posted May 17, 2016, 6:31 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated May 19, 2016, 8:11 AM ]
Online learning communities require work by a variety of people to function properly.  Students are needed.  Without students, there is no point to the learning community.  You need someone to do the learning.  Teachers are needed as content-level experts, to curate content for students, clearing up misconceptions, and ensure that students are learning the material.  Facilitators or Staff are needed to manage the day-to-day operations of the virtual school.  These people often manage tuition (for paid schools), make sure that students are registering for the correct courses, and keep the community running smoothly.  These people often get very little recognition, but schools cannot function without these key individuals.  Finally, schools or learning communities require administrators.  They are responsible for monitoring the learning environment as a whole and communicating with the various stakeholders to make sure that the community is functioning as it should.  Parents are also key players in virtual schools, at least at the K-12 level.  Parents are advocates for their students, often pay the fees, and help motivate their child to do well in their courses.

Student information Systems (SIS) are often used to keep track of student data.  In my current district, we use PowerSchool.  I have a love-hate relationship with this software.  It has a nice-looking user interface, updates in real time, and allows students and parents to see their grades online.  It also allows us to take attendance and see our students' demographic information and schedules.  However, it doesn't let us email parents progress reports on a schedule (every Friday), like our previous software did.  I guess the rationale is that they expect the parents to check the students' grades online, but this doesn't always happen.  Our dashboard looks like this:
In general, we have 4 types of users for our SIS:
  • Students/Parents
    • check grades
  • Teachers
    • enter grades
    • take attendance
    • access demographic information
  • Information Specialist/Staff/Counselors
    • enters demographic information
    • builds student schedules 
    • access students' records to advise on courses
    • manages attendance
  • Administrators
    • oversee grades (Are teachers entering enough grades? Entering grades in a timely manner?  Does one teacher have too many failing students?)
    • oversee attendance (Are some students missing too much school?  Are some teachers not taking attendance?)
    • oversee anything else that is needed (a great place to get an overview of your school)
I generally think of this software as "housekeeping" software.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are often used on a day-to-day basis by teachers and students.  This is where the learning takes place.  SIS is needed to keep track of important data, but the LMS is more important when it comes to student learning and disseminating content.  The LMS I've created for my students in Haiku looks like this:

This allows me to have links to videos, photos, supplemental video links, links to my Google Drive folder where all my resources are kept, and quizzes all in one place.  This is my students' "home" on the web.  If they need something for my class, they can find it here.  The students must register for this site, which ensures that this environment is safe and only accessed by my students (although I have allowed a select number of teachers access as students so they can see how I set everything up and manage my class).  There are a few different types of users for this software:
  • Parents
    • Ideally, parents would sign up so they could be involved in their child's learning and see what they are learning, but I've found this doesn't always happen
  • Students
    • access content (hopefully learn from content)
    • ask questions (usually asynchronously)
    • submit assignments
    • take assessments
  • Teachers
    • create content
    • curate content
    • answer questions
    • grade assignments
    • grade (usually software can do this) assessments
      • use this data to see where students have misconceptions and adjust lessons/content accordingly
  • Administrators
    • Ideally, administrators would sign up as well so they can also be involved in the learning and know what is going on in the classroom. I've found that this also doesn't always happen.
  • Counselors
    • This doesn't happen often, but I've registered counselors for the site so they can see what goes on in the classroom and help communicate student expectations to curious parents
Haiku doesn't offer everything I would like it to, but I like it the best of all the LMS services I've tried (Schoology, Moodle, Edmodo, Google Classroom...).

Both of these platforms are crucial to maintaining an organized school and learning environment.