Part 1: Maximizing the Benefits of Automated Data Reporting
Want Less Red Tape and More Student-Teacher Connection?
As educators, we’re all about making the most of our time to benefit our students; we know just how true the saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is. The less time you spend bogged down in paperwork and red tape, the more time you can spend making personal connections with students and giving them the meaningful feedback they need to thrive. Automated data reporting tools might initially sound like they’d be impersonal, but, when used correctly, they can play a vital role in enhancing instructors’ social presence in their courses by creating much-needed time. Harnessing the power of technology and the data within your learning management system (LMS) can not only save you time when it comes to cutting through that red tape but give you the insights you need to make your course even better. It’ll also allow you to strengthen your online, in-person, and hybrid programs to better meet the needs of busy adult learners.
Lane Freeman and Ivana Hanson can vouch for this from personal experience. At our first user conference, IntelliCon 2021, we were fortunate to have Freeman and Hanson share their journey towards taking full advantage of the power of automated data reporting at North Carolina Community College System member Nash Community College during its pivot to remote learning in March 2020 and beyond.
Lane Freeman, Ed.D. is the Director of Online Learning for the North Carolina Community College System. Dr. Freeman started his career as a National Board certified Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher at a high school with many students from marginalized communities in rural eastern North Carolina before transitioning to higher education. He is energized by helping learners succeed through education technology, instructional design, and online pedagogy.
Ivana Hanson, MA. is an Adult Learner Specialist for the North Carolina Community College System. An experienced educator passionate about making a difference in the lives of disenfranchised learners, Hanson is particularly focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion and is working toward her Ed.D. at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) strives to provide high-quality, accessible educational opportunities that minimize barriers to post-secondary education, maximize student success, develop a globally and multi-culturally competent workforce, and improve the lives and well-being of individuals. The NCCCS provides training and re-training for the workforce including basic skills such as literacy in addition to General Educational Development (GED), pre-baccalaureate, and English Language Learners (ELL) programs. Customized job training programs developed by the colleges serve 38,000 workers at more than 1,000 companies annually. The NCCCS is the third largest community college system in the United States, with more than 275 programs of study serving 700,000 students annually at 58 colleges across North Carolina. All of the member colleges in the NCCCS use the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) and the IntelliBoard data and analytics solution.
Through embracing the power of automated data reporting – particularly to track seat time when courses had to move online at the onset of the pandemic, Freeman, Hanson, and their team partnered with IntelliBoard to free up time for their instructors to spend focusing on social presence in instruction. Freeman and Hanson created instructor buy-in by holding faculty onboarding sessions that highlighted key basic features of the Moodle LMS and IntelliBoard data and analytics solution. This, in turn, opened up new possibilities for building out thriving online and hybrid programs to reach underserved populations and busy adult learners.
Nash Community College Goes Fully Online
In March 2020, Lane Freeman and Ivana Hanson worked at NCCCS member Nash Community College, Freeman as the Department Chair for Online Instruction and Hanson as the Director of College and Career Readiness. Nash Community College serves approximately 12,000 students annually. In addition to two-year technical and college transfer programs, vocational, occupational, business, and industry-related programs are offered which prepare students for jobs. Nash Community College also offers Adult Basic Education, High School Equivalency, and Adult High School to meet the diverse needs of the citizenry in Nash County, North Carolina and the surrounding area.
When the pandemic hit, courses at Nash Community College that weren’t using an LMS and whose instructors had never taught online had to pivot to all online instruction despite the fact that their subject areas traditionally relied heavily on being hands-on and in person. Freeman noted how pressing the need was to make online courses work even in non-traditional scenarios.
“Because of their [subject matter], they thought, “we need the hands-on, we need to be in the classroom” and that’s completely true. But when the pandemic hit, now we’ve been forced to have people off-campus. So the choice was, do we just not even teach those students, or do we try to teach them the best way we can through online instruction?”
Adding to the difficulty presented by the prevalence of many courses whose subject matter wasn’t initially thought of as conducive to online learning, many of the adult learners at Nash Community College were in groups that were among the least likely to be equipped with the literacy or tech skills necessary to thrive in an online learning environment.
There was no way around it: switching to all online learning was going to be a heavy lift. Luckily Freeman was already familiar with some powerful options.
“I knew of the tools that IntelliBoard had and I knew the learning management system was collecting the data. IntelliBoard reports were amazing, the information they were giving us was amazing and I was able to take all this information and really consolidate it at one point, so I could make some data-driven decisions on student success and move forward.”
Armed with their expertise and education technology tools, Lane Freeman, Ivana Hanson, and their team set out to meet the challenge of moving Nash Community College’s courses online.
Tracking Contact Hours in an Online Setting
Nash Community College relies on tracking contact hours to get funding. When a class is in person, you simply take attendance and if a student’s there in a physical seat, then that counts as contact time. Tracking seat time online is less straightforward. How can you tell if and for how long a student is engaged in coursework if the student is never physically in the classroom? Since funding hinges on this question, it’s of critical import.
Beyond the logistics involved in keeping track of the clicks within your LMS to count contact hours during online learning, there’s a much higher bar for student engagement online than in person. In person, a student could be physically in the classroom with no other evidence that they are engaging with the material and it would still count as a contact hour. Online, the student has to be interacting with the LMS at regular intervals before they “time out” of the course due to inactivity. If they’re looking at material in the LMS and processing information but not clicking anything, the LMS might record the student as having timed out even though the student is just as engaged with the material as they would be if they were sitting in the classroom.
Parsing out all this data into a format that seat time auditors will accept can be hugely complicated and time-consuming, recalled Hanson.
“The first thing we did during COVID is, we tried to go to a Google Classroom method where students had to click to time in and click to time out every day, made lots of spreadsheets. It was our best workaround at the time, but it made a lot of errors. You can imagine that students don’t remember to sign out and if they didn’t hit that sign out, then we have to figure it out. So it was a ton of errors, a ton of data clean up, but now we have these wonderful [IntelliBoard] reports.”
Hanson also noted that tracking seat time had been a significant barrier to adopting online learning in the past.
“We’ve had other platforms in the past – multiple platforms, different academic platforms – but it’s been very difficult. And there’s such a disconnect between using a random platform to teach something, and then what your teacher’s teaching. So we really wanted to get into using Moodle and using our LMS. But for years prior to using IntelliBoard, we didn’t know how we could collect that [seat time] data.”
Once Nash Community College made the move to Moodle they were able to track every click within their LMS, but, recalled Freeman, that still left the problem of data overload until they integrated IntelliBoard.
“I knew instructors can go in and get the learning management system’s reports, activity logs, you can look at all that information, but my goodness, it’s so overwhelming. Every time there’s a click, every time someone logs in, there’s so much information there, it is too much information. We knew we had to work with IntelliBoard to make the data easier to digest.”
Freeman, Hanson, and their team reached out to Amy Price, VP of Client Success at IntelliBoard, to make sure both Nash Community College’s administrative needs and the needs of their unique student body were met.
Partnering with IntelliBoard for Quick Onboarding and Customized Solutions
A former educator and college administrator herself, Amy Price was more than happy to help. Price and the IntelliBoard team helped identify stakeholders, set up meetings, develop a plan to manage scheduled reports, and train personnel in how to get the most out of IntelliBoard’s capabilities.
Price and her team also worked with Freeman and Hanson to figure out how best to track contact hours online for a population of adult learners who are still working on their literacy and tech skills. Freeman greatly appreciated IntelliBoard’s willingness to listen and the customizable nature of the product.
“IntelliBoard never said, ‘WE know what’s best for YOUR students’. Instead, IntelliBoard asked Nash CC ‘What is best for YOUR students?’ recognizing that each institution knows their student population better than anyone else. We greatly appreciated this approach because Nash CC knows our students better than anyone else. In fact, it’s a challenge to compare one community college in Eastern North Carolina to another community college in the Western part of the state. We know our students the best.”
Price, Hanson, Freeman, and their teams worked together to tailor IntelliBoard to Nash Community College’s unique contact hour tracking needs. IntelliBoard’s time tracking for Moodle defaults to measuring proof of engagement by a “ping rate” of one click or action every minute. So if a student were to spend more than a minute reading content on the screen, even though the student was fully engaged and present, that student may be counted as timed out. IntelliBoard worked with Nash Community College to configure the local plugin setting to a ping rate that allowed for more time in between clicks on proof of engagement metrics. Hanson appreciated the experience.
“We worked with Amy and IntelliBoard because they allowed us to modify the time in timeout, the log in, log out, the wait time. So we modified that a little bit. We actually increased it a little bit for our students because we know that literacy rates are pretty low. So they may be looking at a screen a little bit longer than somebody with a higher reading ability would.”
With IntelliBoard, Nash Community College could simply set an appropriate ping rate and have proof of engagement data automatically collected, compiled into reports, scheduled, and distributed to the appropriate parties. For Hanson, IntelliBoard was a game-changer.
“Being able to set up those IntelliBoard reports, they come automatically weekly to my instructors. They don’t have to do anything, I can go ahead and schedule them. So once a week, they get their attendance report. I set it up one time a semester, and the data is clean when we get it. It calculates the total time for the student for the day.”
Freeman concurred and highlighted the efficiency factor.
“IntelliBoard saved us a huge amount of time. Now instructors can use that time and focus it towards student success, feedback, and retention instead of using a spreadsheet to calculate seat time.”
Now that Nash Community College had tackled tracking seat time in an online context, they could focus more time and attention on quality instruction. Learn more about how Freeman, Hanson, and their team created onboarding sessions to gain instructor buy-in by highlighting the power of basic but crucial LMS features and built out a robust program of instructor-led customized online learning to serve busy adult learners through the pandemic and beyond.