At a Glance
Supported by a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Personalized Learning Grant,
North Montco Technical Career Center (NMTCC) implemented an innovative personalized learning paradigm that leverages digital technology to create an individual learning path for each student.
NMTCC is the first CTC in the state to be awarded the Pennsylvania Department of Education Personalized Learning Grant, which is designed to increase student achievement through personalized, customizable learning opportunities. The CTC is using the grant money and local funds to implement Canvas, a learning management system that will result in a new approach to curriculum delivery. To fully support Canvas, NMTCC also uses grant funds to train faculty in new technologies, acquire Chromebooks for students, and rebuild the technology infrastructure of the school. NMTCC set a grant-based goal to increase student achievement on local and standardized assessments and to increase by 30 percent the number of students who complete their Program of Study.
At the core of the grant implementation process was the decision to adopt the digital learning system Canvas. NMTCC aims to provide all students the ability to participate in learner-centered, competency-based, personalized learning educational experiences. Using Canvas as an instructional and learning tool, the belief is that NMTCC instructors will be better able to address the distinct learning needs, interests, and aspirations of individual students and maximize the potential for anytime/anyplace learning. Instructors use the learning management system to create lessons and full curricula that students can readily access.
NMTCC used a systemic and methodical approach to implement the new curriculum delivery model and other grant-based changes. The CTC uses a Quality Management System and with that a specific planning matrix for its processes. This approach guides the grant implementation process.
In January 2017, the Personalized Learning Grant team, which consisted of one CTE instructor, one academic teacher, the Coordinator of Programs and Services, and the IT administrator, created an implementation timeline and established roles and responsibilities for those involved in the project. (In December 2016, these team members had attended the SAS Institute.) An assistant director assumed the role of project facilitator.
The team worked to assess the technology readiness level of staff members and identified them as Tier I (highest level of readiness), Tier II or Tier III (lowest level of readiness). Tier I staff members became trainers for other staff members. Atomic Learning (now known as Hoonuit), an online professional learning company, also was purchased at this time to provide staff members with tutorials on how to use Canvas. During the summer 2017 the grant supported 160 hours of professional development for Tier I, II and III instructors to build or update their curriculum/courses in Canvas or to take Canvas tutorials using Atomic Learning.
As of fall 2017, approximately one-third of NMTCC instructional staff members use Canvas as their primary curriculum delivery tool. Another one-third use Canvas to some degree and are becoming more comfortable with it. The final third of instructional staff are interested in Canvas, and about half of this group are taking tutorials to learn more about how to use it.
The Personalized Learning Grant team addressed many challenges once implementation began. For example, technology expenses to purchase the necessary tools and to develop and maintain the required infrastructure proved higher than the team expected. These expenses totaled $37,000 before the project even started. The NMTCC administration committed almost an additional $50,000 in local monies to help fund the project.
Staff turnover also proved to be a substantial challenge. The IT administrator who oversaw all hardware and software applications left NMTCC as did a Tier I CTE instructor. As a result, there was a four-week period during which technical support could not be provided at the same level it usually was.
For other CTCs that may consider implementing a personalized learning system, the grant team offers some suggestions based on challenges they encountered.
- Address funding issues and consider additional sources of funding. Sufficient funding can expedite the implementation process.
- Spend adequate time fully researching all the considerations to fully implement a Learning Management Systems. Assess what infrastructure is needed and where gaps may need to be filled.
- Work closely with sending districts and ask for their input.
- Prepare to address the varying needs and readiness levels of instructors as some will be ready to fully interact with new technology and others will need more support.
- Expect staff turnover and be prepared to address changes.
- Set high, but realistic expectations of what can and cannot be done and/or funded.
Overall, NMTCC has found the learning management system implementation process to be a challenging but positive experience. NMTCC plans to continue taking the necessary steps to achieve the goals of the grant. The CTC has installed technology to help meet these goals and continues to provide relevant training to staff members. Furthermore, the Personalized Learning Grant team has worked to create a system that allows staff to implement the new technology at their own pace. Ultimately, all instructors will be required to use Canvas and implement individualized anywhere/anytime learning.
Over the next three years, NMTCC will analyze data to see if the CTC met the goal of increasing by 30 percent the number of students who complete their program of study. In addition, the CTC will conduct data analysis to determine if there are improvements in NOCTI scores and attendance rates. Data on student and parent satisfaction also will be collected.
Initial data shows an increase in pre-test NOCTI scores since the start of Personalized Learning Grant project. In a comparison of 2016-2017 scores to 2017-2018 scores, there was a 15 percent increase in the number of students scoring Advanced and Competent on the pre-test. There was a 30 percent decrease in the number of students scoring Basic or below. It is important to note that additional data measured over a longer period will be collected to more fully assess the impact of the grant on student achievement.
Anecdotally, NMTCC reports that the new educational approaches and techniques to learning improve student engagement. Students describe how the use of new technology can help motivate them and focus their attention.
North Montco Technical Career Center
Robert Lacivita, Coordinator or Programs and Services