September 12th, 2020
Scheduling and staffing a comprehensive timetable for over 2500 distance learners from all 16 of our secondary schools in such a short period of time has been a complex task. If you would like additional information that is not provided in this update, we would remind you of our secondary distance learning guide and our September 10th update on the WRDSB website.
My online course or login stopped working on Friday, what happened?
Our online learning management system is called D2L Brightspace or referred to as the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is normally a robust and reliable platform. However, the system did experience technical difficulties from about 10:30-1:30 yesterday, September 11th. Some of our classes were interrupted at that time, and students would have been unable to log back in. To further confuse and complicate matters, the D2L/VLE automated display system incorrectly indicated that this was due to ‘scheduled maintenance’ for a period of time. The company has resolved the storage system issue, ensured the screen message has been updated and has apologized for any inconvenience or impression that this was a failure of a system at the school board.
Why haven’t I heard from anyone?
Many students in the Secondary Distance Learning Program (SDLP) still have incomplete timetables due to course conflicts (two courses chosen by a student fall at the same class time), incomplete course selections, and changes in course availability. As a result, these students were not contacted by a teacher last week and were also not able to log into their VLE courses by Friday, September 11th as we had originally planned. Guidance staff at all 16 home secondary schools and the distance learning program staff are working as quickly as possible to resolve any scheduling issues. Your home school guidance counsellor may have made contact with you to select new course options, or to inform you about the need for a course change. We estimate that despite our best efforts, some 130 students may still be in this situation as of Friday, September 11th. Staff are continuing to work over the weekend to resolve as many conflicts as possible.
Due to staffing challenges, several courses in the SDLP started Friday, September 11th with occasional teachers. These teachers attempted to reach all the students in these courses and ensure the students could log in to the VLE. Unfortunately, not all of the students received phone calls. Occasional teachers will connect with these students early this week using the contact information in our student data system from the home school.
We are also working as a school board to ensure there will be a way for families to directly contact the support staff and administrators of the SDLP and will publish this information as soon as it is available here on our website.
What can I do as a parent or student if I have no courses or the wrong course?
Parents and students may check with their home school guidance counsellor to receive confirmation that the course change or course addition requests have been forwarded to the distance learning program. Parents can also confirm contact details with the office staff or guidance counsellor at their home school so that the distance learning staff have the correct and current primary contact phone number of the household in our computer system. If you have already done these contacts, please wait a day or two to see if the problem has been resolved by the distance learning staff in that time frame.
Will I be behind if I have a course change? What will I miss?
The focus of the first days in the SDLP has been to ensure students gained familiarity with the WRDSB D2L Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform called “Brightspace” by getting them started on the Virtual Learning Environment orientation, introducing students to the course and building relationships with our students.
In terms of course content, students not scheduled in courses yet or who were unable to log in to their VLE last week will not be penalized academically. Distance learning staff will welcome new students and ensure they have what they need to be successful. Time and individualized support will be available from your teachers. Although it can be very difficult and stressful to miss a day or two of class, this is not unusual in our secondary schools and the teachers have strategies to support their students.
You can do the same D2L/VLE orientation even if you have a course registration challenge. SDLP students who are not yet enrolled in a course can still access the VLE student orientation by going to https://wrdsb.elearningontario.ca and login with their WRDSB email address and password.
On Monday, September 14th, all SDLP students will engage asynchronously in a student welcome assembly. These assemblies will be recorded and shared with all students including those students who are added to courses late. The recording remains available for the full quadmester. We originally planned for live events but made the change to a recorded version as a way for new students to have access, and to allow flexibility for the classroom teachers as they create start-up routines with their students.
The focus of these welcome assemblies will be to:
- Welcome students and introduce SDLP Staff and Administrators
- Provide clear digital citizenship expectations for distance learners
- Describe a typical day for a distance learner and share student attendance expectations
- Provide tips on how to be a successful distance learner
- Share how students can access academic and social-emotional supports
I’ve started the program and it is very different from last spring. Why has it changed?
In the SDLP, students can expect more live (synchronous) and engaging instruction than they may have experienced last year or in an eLearning class. The course occurs remotely but will follow the same daily schedule (8:30-2:15) and teacher connection as that of students in face to face courses. Attendance will be taken. Instruction will be a blend of live instruction by their teacher, independent work and small group study. Distance learners who requested technology-free learning should dedicate the same amount of time each day for learning and task completion. Instructions on accessing course materials for our tech-free learners will be communicated by the classroom teacher next week.
Last Spring during Distance Learning, student’s marks when schools closed served as a baseline that students could improve as they worked through the coursework provided by their face to face teacher via Google Classroom or the VLE. This year our students will have regular feedback, ongoing assessment and work will be evaluated and counted towards a grade throughout the quadmester. All classes will work within the VLE platform.
We apologize for any frustration or confusion that families and students may have experienced as we get this program up and running. The creation of a full distance learning experience for almost 3000 students in a short period of time has presented many unexpected challenges. We appreciate the patience of our families as we work through the final challenges.