Distance Learning by the Numbers: Tracking Virtual Instruction via LMS Usage

April 10, 2020 Trip Kucera

A student home learning via video conference and the school's LMS website.

The rapid transition to distance learning by schools across the country is having a massive impact on educators, students, and parents. It’s also significantly changing the way K–12 private schools use Blackbaud Learning Management SystemTM (LMS).

In conversations with school leaders, we heard again and again that the transition wasn’t just about turning on web conferencing and running classes on the same schedule. Educators needed to modify schedules and be thoughtful about blending synchronous instructions (via web conferencing like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom) with asynchronous learning, from submitting offline work to interactive class discussions.  

Schools with Blackbaud's education management solutions had the advantage of already having faculty and families on a common system with a consistent login and user experience. They were able to integrate incremental services (like web conferencing) to support distance learning, but they also doubled-down on Blackbaud-native capabilities in the LMS. Comparing data from March 2020 with that of March 2019, we see:

  • Use of course Topics, which provide a hub for learning resources, have seen document and photo uploads increase by over 350 percent, and video uploads jump by 800 percent; 
  • Graded Discussions, which allow teachers and students to engage on a subject, have increased by 14 times; 
  • Assessments (online tests and quizzes) have increased by over 380; and 
  • Assignment submissions have increased by 290 percent.  

It’s nearly impossible to imagine that if schools were forced to close en masse ten or fifteen years ago that learning could have continued the way it has over the last month. Certainly, those images of smiling student faces in a class web conference have become the epitome of the current distance learning moment, but metrics like those from our LMS show educators aren’t just turning on the webcam and letting it rip. Instead, we’re seeing a blend of synchronous and asynchronous interactions and deeper use of core learning management capabilities. 

As we look toward the day when schools can physically open their doors again, it's also hard to imagine that this rapid adoption of virtual learning methodologies won't have a long-lasting footprint on K–12 education as we knew it. 

About the Author

Trip Kucera

Trip is the director of marketing for Blackbaud K–12 solutions where he combines a love of learning with a passion for technology marketing.

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