April 16, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
When online learning became the new norm in Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District due to COVID-19, teacher Cathy Austin was already best friends with the platform used in the district. For years she had used “Moodle” through a collaboration between host Harris County Department of Education and her district.
The system allows educators to create a private space online to build courses, activities and assignments with software tools for their students. It also allows teachers to track student progress. Students benefit because they don’t have to download apps to complete their work. It’s also a one-stop-shop for all their assignments.
“The other thing I like is that it allows us the ability to give students everything they need in delivering their curriculum,” said Austin.
Colina Poullard, director for Digital Education and Innovation at HCDE, has seen a 30 percent increase in online traffic in Moodle since COVID-19 prompted 100 percent distance learning in Cy-Fair. Moodle is available to all 12,000 teachers at the fourth largest district in the state. In addition to teachers and students using the system for assignments, Moodle can be used to host professional development and internal communications workshops for school districts.
“Because some teachers are using Moodle as their only teaching medium, we are seeing nearly 2,000 daily log ins,” Poullard said. “We support teachers through every aspect of the platform.”
Austin teaches computer science and computer programming to students in Cy-Woods High School. In her school, approximately 400 students use Moodle. She has 100 students on the hosted platform each day.
Moodle can even perform surveys so that instructors know basic information about students having dedicated computers versus having to share them with other family members.
“Total online teaching opens new realms of Moodle we’ve never used before,” Austin said. “It will handle instructional videos so students can get all my curriculum in one post.
“It can track who did what assignment and let us know who is working and who is not.”
When working with computers, often you must expect the unexpected, the computer science teacher said. Internet goes down. Software needs updating. Glitches must be worked out.
“I’ve been extremely impressed in the last year about how Moodle is working, and we’ve not had one issue with Moodle since COVID began,” Austin said.
Moodle is also used as a learning management system within HCDE to certify teachers in online teaching.
“We have teachers all over the state who are being certified in online learning,” said Poullard.
Poullard expects more districts to look to Moodle as a one-stop-shop for hosting learning for both their students and teachers.
“While Cy-Fair is a very large district, this type of platform can be really useful for smaller districts who need a user-friendly learning management system to support their teachers and students,” Poullard said.
“As districts’ needs continue to change, HCDE evolves to offer new virtual learning initiatives. We’re here to help.”