In the know: Online learning expert discusses challenges students, parents will face this fall

The goal for many districts is to provide a learning management system that acts as a single point of connection for parents, students and teachers, said Tracy Weeks, director of K-12 education for the online learning platform Canvas. (Design by Katherine Borey/Community Impact Newspaper)
The goal for many districts is to provide a learning management system that acts as a single point of connection for parents, students and teachers, said Tracy Weeks, director of K-12 education for the online learning platform Canvas. (Design by Katherine Borey/Community Impact Newspaper)

The goal for many districts is to provide a learning management system that acts as a single point of connection for parents, students and teachers, said Tracy Weeks, director of K-12 education for the online learning platform Canvas. (Design by Katherine Borey/Community Impact Newspaper)

After a trial run in the spring, students and parents in Keller and Northwest ISDs will have the option to begin the fall semester with online learning.

Northwest ISD students will begin the school year with remote learning until at least Sept. 14, while Keller ISD students will have remote and in-person instruction options beginning with the first day of school on Aug. 19.

The goal for many districts is to provide a learning management system that acts as a single point of connection for parents, students and teachers alike, said Tracy Weeks, director of K-12 education for the online learning platform Canvas.

“It should be a one-stop-shop that creates organization and takes that stress [away],” Weeks said. “Teachers can save resources and organize learning into lessons, activities and units in an organized way.”

Online platforms such as Canvas also provide flexibility through things like mobile applications that allow students and parents to track academic progress daily. According to Weeks, despite a significant increase in overall usage, access to the Canvas platform has been available 99% of the time.


“We were serving more than 2,000 districts across the country [before COVID-19], and now, we’re up to more than 3,000 districts,” Weeks said. “[Online] learning systems have shifted from one of those things [districts] want to have to something they must have.”

To help maintain accuracy and protect work for students and teachers, the Canvas platform utilizes Amazon Web Services to store data, she said.

Even when students are allowed to return to the classroom, Weeks said she expects that learning management systems will still act as an important tool to help support in-class learning.

“We saw this happening even before the pandemic,” she said. “Districts want teachers to be able to use a lot of digital tools and have a place to organize them.”

In addition to navigating online learning platforms, students of all age groups will face different challenges in the fall, Weeks said. Students, parents and teachers should remember to be flexible, have good communication and utilize proper scheduling, she said.

“Being willing to try new things and even change things if they’re not working is going to be really important,” Weeks said. “And regardless of age, having checkpoints and checking in is important.”

Overall, patience is the key, Weeks said.

While teachers and district officials had practice in the spring, they are still building new skill sets for online learning, she said.

“Some things will work really well, and other things, teachers will have to rethink for the next lesson,” Weeks said. “You’re not the same teacher in your 10th year of [teaching] as you were in your first. I don’t expect it will take teachers 10 years, but it might take more than a week.”
By Ian Pribanic
Ian Pribanic covers city government, transportation, business and education news for Community Impact Newspaper in the Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth areas. A Washington D.C. native and University of North Texas graduate, Ian was previously an editor for papers in Oklahoma, West Texas and for Community Impact in New Braunfels.


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