BCSC selects new learning management system

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is moving its online learning content to a new platform, with plans for training over the next year and districtwide implementation in 2023-24.

The school board has approved a contract for Canvas, a learning management system (LMS) by Instructure that will replace “itslearning.” School officials said this is a five-year agreement that totals $301,372 and includes the LMS subscription, 24/7 support, two-day onsite training, and a standard implementation package.

According to Brenny Kummer, BCSC coordinator of instructional technology and administrator for “itslearning,” a learning management system is a central location where students and staff can access learning content, including all of the school corporation’s digital textbooks and curriculum resources.

“It’s more than just a website,” she said. “There’s communication tools built in there that follow privacy guidelines that are set by the federal government. There’s also assignment creation tools and submission tools for students too. So it is a learning hub for students where they can access assignments, interact with their classmates and also contact their teacher.”

Director of Operations Brett Boezeman said that having a good LMS is very important.

“It’s the catalyst and the vehicle that helps teachers carry and deliver curriculum to students,” said Boezeman. “So, to me, it may look like another contract and agreement, but it’s a tremendously big deal both for our teaching staff and our students to make sure it’s appropriate and vetted.”

The current LMS, “itslearning,” was piloted during the 2014-15 school year.

“It was our year to really prep before we were going to go 1:1 with Chromebooks and Windows laptops, as well as a mix of iPads in the district,” said Kummer. “And ‘itslearning’ was an integral piece of that. Our stakeholders had communicated with us years ago that if we were going to go 1:1, we needed to have one place for all of our online learning to take place and one access point for our teachers and our students to get their resources.”

The current site was implemented on a districtwide scale in 2015-16. The LMS has had a high user rate and was especially important during the pandemic.

However, “itslearning” is exiting the United States market, said school officials. BCSC was notified of the change in June of 2021; its contract lasts through June 30, 2023.

After a great deal of research, evaluation and stakeholder feedback, Canvas emerged as the frontrunner as a replacement.

Kummer said that the system’s strengths include a strong mobile app experience, an elementary-friendly interface for younger students, built-in accessibility tools, and compatibility with existing hardware and software.

School board member Julie Bilz, who is a professor and department chair at Ivy Tech Community College – Columbus, said she’s used Canvas for several years.

“It’s very user friendly,” she said. “… I think you’ll be happy with it, just from a teaching perspective.”

“Some of our teachers had actually written that, on the committee — ‘I want to start using this now,’ were really excited,” replied Kummer. “So they feel the same way.”

School officials plan to continue using “itslearning” with students during the 2022-23 school year while simultaneously using the year to train staff on how to use Canvas. By July 1 of 2023, “itslearning” will no longer be in use, and BCSC will launch the new LMS districtwide for both staff and students in 2023-24.

When asked if there will also be training resources for parents, Kummer said that BCSC has held “family tech nights” in the past.

“We have found that we actually get better turnout if we do those more at the school level rather than district ones, so we will certainly provide those opportunities, as well as resources on our website,” she said.