OTAN-- Outreach and Technical Assistance Network
Heather Martin: So welcome. Thank you all for coming. We are going to be talking about designing our adult basic ed and ESL courses for our flexible environment.
I'm Heather Martin. I am one of our ESL supervisors at Elgin Community College outside of Chicago. And with me, I hope she's unmuting. There you go.
Marcia Luptak: My name is Marcia Luptak. I am the associate dean of Adult Education at Elgin Community College.
Heather Martin: So just so you know as we go through the presentation, we will stop periodically and take questions. So if you have any questions, you're welcome to put them in the chat or you can just hold on to them until we get to one of our little question and answer breaks. So first, to give you a little bit of background about our institution and our program.
Like I said, we are from Elgin Community College we're about 50 miles Northwest of Chicago so it's a little bit later in the day for us and we're glad we figured that out before conference time. That picture you see is our main campus. We also have three additional campuses.
In fall of 2019, our enrollment was about just under 10,000 to give you an idea of the size of the institution. And the breakdown of that enrollment is we are a Hispanic-serving institution. We have about 45 and 1/2% Latinx students, 38% white students, a little under 5% African-American, a little over 7% Asian, and then less than 1% of Native American and Pacific Islander.
What you're looking at there is our little home in Elgin Community College. That's our building where we house our Adult Basic Education Center. Our entire program that happens on the main campus is in that building for the most part.
In our program, our fall to 2019 enrollment was about 1,200. It's much lower this year due to COVID and other issues obviously. We serve our students at five different locations.
So not only do we have our campuses, but we also have a few community locations that we use for our classes as well. We have about 10 levels of ESL, five to six levels of adult basic and secondary ed. We also have bridge classes and integrated classes also.
Marcia Luptak: So I'm going to talk, give you a little bit of background on why we did this, how we do this. Everybody knows about the closings due to COVID. We left our campus on Friday, March 13th, thinking that we had another week to prepare for the closings. We got an announcement at about 5:30 that evening from the governor saying that all schools were going to be closed.
Administrators were able to come on campus the next Monday, March 16th, but all classes from that point forward could not be held in person. So we had to make this immediate transition to this online format. We were one week before spring break. So the college decided to give us the week before spring break and spring break to prepare to this new environment, get our faculty ready, get our students ready for it. So we had this really quick transition, not knowing how to approach it.
A couple of things that we did initially is that we did develop some faculty trainings, how to use them, how to teach online during the spring break so that faculty could get comfortable with the tools. We also developed a faculty forum so teachers could talk to each other about what they were doing, ask questions, and have that communication open to them because again, all of us are working remotely. We can't do this in person.
We also developed a communication plan with our students because we knew we only had two weeks after spring break and then our spring semester was over. So we had two weeks to teach classes, but also communicate with students, what was going to be coming up for the next semester, for the fall, et cetera. So a lot of our teachers were using the Remind app, so we used the Remind app with our students just so that they had a link to us after the college closed.
So for the last two weeks of classes, we were really in survival mode. We determined our summer semester started at the end of April. We determined that we just couldn't do it there was no way for us to get our students registered, get our classes set up with the survival mode going on. So we canceled our summer classes, which ended up being beneficial for us because it gave us some time to prepare. Next slide, Heather.
So we're going to talk a little bit about the decision-making process. We wanted to make sure when we made decisions about how we were going to do our fall semester that we got some data, some information so that we made an informed decision. Again, I talked about we had the faculty forum. This had a lot of lively discussion. We got to see what teachers were doing, what kinds of problems they were having as far as connecting with students.
Faculty were sharing ideas about how they were able to contact students, how they were able to teach students, what tools they were using. Our faculty were extremely resourceful in this, and we learned a lot just from these discussions with faculty. So administrators and faculty were all in the same forum, and we all shared ideas and supported each other. So this gave us one source of information to inform us for the fall semester.
During this time, we also sent out a survey for students to see how many students made the transition from the face-to-face classes to the remote classes. We really want to know how many students we lost, how many students we held, which students because one of the things that we wanted to know is, is it just the higher level students at our program? Is it at the lower levels? Which students are still attending?
We also asked how many students successfully completed the classes. We asked the teachers this. We did a teacher survey and asked them about that. Some of our findings-- actually, they were better than we expected.
We were really worried that we'd lose all of our students because they had no communication face to face about this transition, but we found that our lower levels of our program had an average of a 50% success rate, which was really amazing. And when we look closer at the numbers, we realized it was actually higher than that in the classes with the teachers who knew how to use technology effectively. The 50% was that lower number because we had one or two teachers that really struggled with it. So overall, we felt that OK, yes we can do this with our lower levels.
Our higher levels had even a higher success rate. They were at 80% to 90% of the students making a transition successfully and being able to complete the class, being able to pass the class. Again, we found the success really depended on a couple of things. One was the faculty's familiarity with online instruction, how comfortable they felt to using our course management system or Google Classroom or other tools. The other thing that we found that some of our teachers used our LMS, learning management system prior to the shutdown.
Those teachers kept 90% of their students because the students already knew where to go. They'd already accessed the system. It was accessible from their homes. It was accessible on their cell phones. So we found that having that LMS in place really made a difference in the success rate.
And again, we used Remind just to communicate with faculty and students, which is really a wonderful tool because we were able to translate our messages as well for students. And students could ask us questions in their language. It would translate it back for us. So we were really able to do a lot of things with this.
Our faculty survey, we asked the faculty. OK what worked? What didn't work? We want some feedback from them. What tools were they using?
We found that, overall, our faculty were very flexible and very resourceful. The biggest thing was they would have liked to have had more time to prepare and maybe a little bit more training and again, two weeks wasn't much time for training. So we took that into consideration when we started planning for fall.
So when we went through the process, we had to go through several channels. And I see your question. We'll answer your questions in just a few minutes.
The decision-making process actually involved three different entities. We worked with our distance learning department. It was really important to collaborate with them because we need to know what could they support. If we use Google Classroom, could they support our classes and our students or do we need to use the LMS?
We also need to talk about our students' needs and their comfort levels with the system, and they really helped us out a lot with this decision making. Originally, we thought we might use Google Classroom with this lower levels and D2L or Brightspace, which is our learning management system for the upper levels, but after talking to distance learning, we realized that really it was best to use the D2L management system because it had training videos. We had faculty training available. They had student support available. There was all sorts of tools already there that would make it easier for us to use that.
The second entity that we had to collaborate with was ICCB. So for the most part there was very limited online adult ed opportunities in the state of Illinois. The only thing that had been approved prior to this was a program that was geared towards ASE students. And thank you, Heather. ICCB or Illinois Community College Board.
Heather Martin: We forgot what we're presenting right now since we're sitting in our houses.
Marcia Luptak: Yeah. So that was one of the things. They had only approved this one curriculum that was only ASE high. So we had to wait and see if they would allow us to use other systems, other courses what this would look like. So we really had to wait on ICCB for their decisions on what would be allowable.
They also had to develop processes and procedures because they didn't have any in place. We had just been talking about moving classes online. So this was like a rush job. We had to really make these decisions quickly.
What we found is that we had to keep our curriculum or use a course that was approved by ICCB. Those were our two choices. And if we use our own curriculum, that would be easier to approve because they already knew the content. They just needed to know how we were going to deliver it.
We also had a discussion about synchronous and asynchronous classes because again, our students really need that face-to-face feel with their teachers. We felt that a fully online course wouldn't have the same interaction. It doesn't have the same collaboration between students online. It's a little bit more difficult. So we wanted to make sure that we could do a hybrid or class where we had a synchronous component where the teachers met with the students, and then an asynchronous component where the students were on a course management system.
So these were some of the things that we had to get guidance from ICCB. We also had to wait for our college to make decisions. I know a lot of colleges weren't sure if they were going to be in person in fall or if we were going to be totally online in fall.
We made some guesses early on saying, it looks like it's going to be really bad. Most likely, we're not going to be on campus in fall. So that was another decision that we had to make.
We made the decision before the college did, but we were very fortunate. Our college made a decision in early June, late May, so it gave us plenty of time to plan for fall. So we were very fortunate that our college was very proactive in this process. [inaudible]
Heather Martin: So like Marcia said, we decided on a hybrid model. And we did weigh all of our options, especially because our Community College Board was-- the process to create new courses would have been very lengthy and not efficient at all. So because we were stuck either using our existing courses and sticking with those outcomes or just using a canned package, we did weigh that and decide that hybrid was our best option.
We also wanted to make sure that whatever solution we came up with was adaptable and flexible because we had no idea what the restrictions were going to be moving forward. Obviously, as we've all dealt with it, we have no idea how long it was going to last. What types of restrictions would be-- what kind of caps on capacity and procedures would be in place at our institution.
Additionally, our students are so at risk between being essential workers and health restrictions and family structures and living situations and things like that. So we wanted to make sure that what we did was malleable, and we could adapt it moving forward as we needed to as restrictions were lifted and/or put back in place. And so our hybrid model has 50% face to face, which in this case, our face to face is still via Zoom. However, as restrictions are lifted and things are opened up, we will ultimately be able to offer that synchronous component face to face in person. And then the other 50% of the course is asynchronous.
And like Marcia said, we have that in our LMS, which I'll talk about in a minute. Another priority we had with the development of the courses and deciding the direction we were going to go was the flexibility of the text and resources. We really wanted to make sure we use as many open resources as possible, and part of the reason for that was because it allows for a lot of adaptability for our instructors and for our students. There are very robust resources, and additionally, it's cost-effective And then we also, like Marcia said, wanted to make sure that we did have that direct synchronous component embedded somewhere in our courses.
And then for the LMS, we did have a lot of discussions about different ways to develop or to deliver courses. I think, originally, when we were sent home and everyone was in survival mode for those few weeks, our teachers were using whatever tools they and their students were accustomed to. I mean, we had a lot of like phone calls going on and some people were Zooming some people were using things like Google Classrooms. I mean, it was just all across the board.
I mean, we had students sitting in Starbucks, parking lots on their phones half the time. It was crazy and like the resilience of our students and our faculty definitely showed for sure, but we did, I think, probably talk about Google Classroom more than anything else because a lot of our faculty is very familiar with it. Some of them already used it with their students and a lot of them use it, teaching in their full time K-12 jobs. Additionally, a lot of our students were familiar with it because their kids were getting to know it and because their teachers could have already used it potentially.
However, the deciding factor was that we would not have the institutional support we needed. So even though we like the visual stimulation of Google Classroom and the way you could aesthetically do what you like with it, in a way, the flexibility there, we decided that not having the support of our distance learning team was going to be very detrimental. And so we did go with our LMS, which, like Marcia said, it's Brightspace, D2L, which it allowed for the institutional support. And we also thought that it was a good tool for our students as they increased rigor. And for our students that want to transition to credit courses, they're already familiar with the LMS, which is great.
So we are going to pause now for some questions. I know we had one in the chat that was, is the majority of our students-- were they already in possession of computers and laptops? And the answer to that is no.
When we went for the spring, when COVID hit and we were shut down, it was just like the Wild West. And if you had a device, then great. And if you didn't have a device, then hopefully, we could get you some in some way, but we didn't really know how yet.
Since then we have had great institutional support, and our students have been able to borrow Chromebooks from our college library. We did have a lot of community organizations with hotspots and things like that. Marcia, do you want to add anything onto that?
Marcia Luptak: Sure. So one of the things that we discovered is that most of our students actually were attending class in that last two weeks via their cell phones. So that was a really good piece of information for us to have. And that was also part of the decision-making process, is that we wanted to make sure that students could access the classes via cell phones, via laptops, tablets-- all of these different ways and that when they access them from these other tools, from these other devices, that the interaction was the same, the interface was the same and that was another advantage of using our learning management system D2L was that it's very easy to maneuver on a cell phone. It's not desirable because the print is so small. You're limited by that, but at least students had that.
And like Heather said, we also wanted to make sure if we could get Chromebook. We ordered a bunch of Chromebooks, get Chromebooks and hotspots to students who needed them because it's really a better way to learn. They can be more interactive, but again, when we did this quick transition, most of our students did not have laptops or computers.
Heather Martin: Are there any other questions? You can unmute yourself and ask or you can put it in the chat.
Audience: Thank you for answering that. What we found is that our population is mostly working in agriculture and the wine industry, and their digital literacy is very low. They do not have computers. They don't know even really how to turn it on or use it.
So it was very interesting to hear your percentages of retention in the higher levels. And then going down, I just wondered how that related to the device that they were using. So thank you for answering.
Heather Martin: Yeah. We're still grappling with the digital literacy issue and trying to figure out the best way to reach all of our students. I think we've been impressed generally with how quickly they've adapted, but there is definitely a learning curve. And we're definitely meeting the needs of some different populations than we did previously, and maybe not meeting the needs of some others. So it's been a trade-off for sure. Well.
Marcia Luptak: And one of the things that we discovered is that we needed to do some training for students before the classes started. So we need that orientations are also in our LMS. So we give students support before they start the classes.
They go through the orientation. If they can't get on, we go on to the computer or we go on to the phones and Zoom with them or we talk to them over the phone. So we make sure that they can get into the LMS and do some basic navigation of it before they start the classes, just introduce them to that.
Another thing that we offered this last semester is we said, hey, we'll have some training in Zoom, how to use the different tools in Zoom before classes started. And that was optional for students, but the orientation was required for all students, even if they were returning because we wanted to have the opportunity for them to interact with interface and see if there are any issues that they had on their end accessing it.
Audience: And did you make your own materials for the Zoom instruction that you give to students?
Heather Martin: Yes. We basically-- I mean, we kept the Zoom workshops very, very basic. It's sharing your screen and muting and unmuting, chatting, joining a breakout room, but we did. What I did was I went to-- the Zoom help site is great. The Zoom support site, but not necessarily for our lower-level students, which is who we expected at the Zoom workshops.
So I went through everything that was on there for the most basic functions. And I pretty much just snipped. I bet the screen snip tool has been my best friend for the last 11 and 1/2 months. I accept everything and put it on a Google Docs, so yes.
Marcia Luptak: Well, and another thing that we've done with the Remind app, when they go through the orientation, we try to get them on the Remind app so that if they have trouble accessing the class the first week of class, one of us can help them with that support, one-on-one usually.
When we send out their class information, they're given our information so they can email us or they can text us. So we really try to give as much support for those students as we can. And they do reach out to us.
I can tell you we have students just they're very excited about being in class. They're a little nervous about the technology, but they're more excited about class and willing to reach out and say, hey, I can't get into my class. I'm having troubles with this. And we do support them when they reach out to us,
Heather Martin: Getting everyone on has been very labor intensive. I mean, we've all-- I have like cell phone numbers of students like brothers-in-law who I have to call on their lunch break so that we can set something up for translation purposes. And we've had Zoom meetings at all crazy hours. And I mean, it's. been quite a task.
Well, there are no additional questions. We'll move on. And like I said, we do have more of these little question breaks coming up. Marcia?
Marcia Luptak: I have an H on this one.
Heather Martin: Really? I'm jealous. I have an M on this one. I'm happy to say it though.
Marcia Luptak: Yeah, you go ahead.
Heather Martin: OK. So the first thing we did was identify our instructors. We wanted to make sure that the instructors for our design team had some type of background in course design and were comfortable with technology. We also wanted to make sure that they were very flexible, and that they were collaborative.
So the first thing we did was have an information session. We gave an overview to all of our students or, sorry, all of our developers, our instructors that we had contacted about being on the development team. We gave some details. We really wanted to prioritize UDL principles, which we'll talk a little bit about later.
We talked about the structure that we wanted to look at and the timeline, the expectations because it's not often that people develop an entire programs worth of courses in less than two months. So it was obviously a very-- we wanted to make sure they knew what they were signing up for. We also had a little training about-- well, not yet, but we talked about compliance making sure that everything was ADA compliant-- things like that, 508 compliance. And we wanted to make sure that when they committed to the project, they knew what they were committing to.
Then when we had those instructors and they've committed, we assigned the instructors to different courses based on their experience and their familiarity with those courses and the curricula. As we said previously, we had to stick with the original course outcomes and outlines so that we didn't have to go through the approval process. So basically, if someone was comfortable with the course in the curriculum, they went right to that course which was convenient, obviously.
We developed teams based on interest levels of the courses and assign team leaders. So most of the team leaders were administrators with one exception. We had a full-time faculty member as one of our team leaders, and those teams met on a weekly basis just to compare and go through everything. Some classes had code developers and that had mixed results. In some cases, those code developers really brought out different creative sides of each other, and in some cases, it looked like there were two different people designing a course to be perfectly honest.
And then we set up collaborative procedures. We used Google folders in Google Docs so that each team had access to everyone else's development. So that way, they could see what types of assessments and things people were developing and the progress and track the curriculum across the program.
And then as I said, we did have weekly meetings to discuss progress to troubleshoot. I think a lot of times it was a therapy session also, like, oh, my gosh, we already have like this much done, we have this much left. But it was nice to make sure everyone was on the same page to check in. A lot of times, we would share what we had done, compare and contrast, see if we had preferences, make sure that we were incorporating a lot of different things into the courses. Marcia, do you want me saying this one too?
Marcia Luptak: No, no. This was mine. This was mine. So I have to give you a brief overview. We're going to go a little bit more into detail about each part of this because it was a pretty complicated process trying to figure out how to develop these courses.
We really wanted to do it as a team model rather than having teachers develop individualized courses because we wanted to have a consistency and a flow from level to level so that students would know what to expect. Once they finish one class, they'd be able to move to the next class. And it would have the exact same format.
So a couple of things that we did to this is teachers had shared access to each other's courses in the LMS, and this allowed them to make sure that what they were doing was consistent with what other teachers were doing. It allowed for peer feedback. It allowed for a lot of rich discussions about how is the best way to put the structure to this. So that was one of the things that we really thought valuable. It was the shared access.
There were some of the oddest. There were some issues because sometimes we got into heated discussions over different teaching styles and philosophies. Some teachers thought it should look like this, and other teachers that it should look like this. There was some debate, but I think it was a healthy debate because it really made us develop stronger classes overall because people came from different viewpoints.
As we went through the process, we developed the structure of the classes we went along because when we started, we really didn't know exactly how we wanted this to be structured. A lot of it depended on what teachers gave as far as feedback. A lot of it depended on the assessments and the outcomes that we were developing, and we also waned the faculty to have some input into the design process.
All of them were taking a class on the course management system. They were using a system that used module guides that will come through the classes. And we were kind of measuring, is that a way that we want to do it with our students? That was one of the discussions we have.
We said, well, these module guides are really challenging. We're having trouble going through this class and finding out where things are and this component here, these components there. So we really had a lot of really good discussions about how can we make this accessible and easy for our students to do.
So we came up with a checklist system. So the students could go through, and they'd have first do this, then do this. And they could check them off as they went through the lesson. This allowed the teacher to see that they completed. It allowed the students to see that they completed it.
It also was very easy. They just had to click on this one page and it took them to all of the different worksheets or the videos and everything, were all in one page. They could access them that way.
One of our teachers did come back later said, well, too many clicks. They'd have three clicks to get to the checklist. But we had to do that a little bit. We talked about structure, about having different units, different modules so that the students could do just one piece of it rather than having a whole module or a whole month's worth of material in one unit. We thought was better to break it down into modules. And then we even broke it down into sub modules.
So that was really important for us that we really thought about the structure, and we did all of this before anybody put anything into the LMS, which was the best idea. Don't develop in the LMS. You need to develop a plan before the LMS.
So the sheet here you have is what we use for planning sheet. The teacher went through and said, OK, what are my outcomes? What are my objectives for this class? Then they thought about the synchronous class, what's going to happen in the class, and what are the materials that are needed, what's going to happen in the asynchronous with the LMS, the online piece, and what are the materials that the teachers need there.
So the teachers developed all of these before we touched the LMS itself just because we want to make sure that they were really well planned, they were really well structured. We knew we could make adjustments once we started entering it. But we really wanted it to be thought out in advance.
The other thing that we did is we established a timeline for the whole process. Now, again, by time we had the meeting with the teachers mid May-- we had identified the teachers and everything else by mid May, and we had our premeeting, we had talked about accessibility. We talked about open education resources. We talked about Creative Commons and how that can be used to find resources.
But we really had an aggressive timeline because we had to have the courses in by a certain date to be reviewed by distance learning, by the state, by our dean, and then we also had to give access to the teachers that would be teaching the classes in fall a month in advance so that they could review the classes and become familiar with them, because these were course shelves that were shared across sections. So it was really--
We came up with this very aggressive timeline. Our original due date was June 30th, and that was going to give us two weeks before the due date that we had with distance learning and with the state in order to go back and give some reflection, revision, and review. What it ended up being is it allowed us-- we had two weeks of flexibility. So we were able to push some of the dates.
We found that it was a little bit more challenging in some of the stages for the teachers to get to meet the deadlines. So we had that flexibility where that two weeks built into the schedule where it was like, OK, we can slow down, we can take a pause and work on this piece a little bit longer. All right.
Next, so I mentioned that our faculty all went through training for the learning management system. So when the college made the determination that they were going to move all of the classes into a virtual environment online with synchronous asynchronous components for many of the classes, the college determined that every faculty member would have to go through training on our learning management system, D2L, in order to be eligible to teach. We were able to jump ahead of the college with this a little bit. We had already set up a special training session just for the adult ed teachers.
So they had a special class set up just for them that was two weeks earlier than the other classes that started for the rest of the college. This was great because it really allowed the faculty to talk to one another and to collaborate during the training. And they had discussion boards. They would be able to talk about it, which was really nice.
The challenge was that the teachers were taking this training at the same time as they were developing the courses. So they were really learning about the LMS system as they were developing, and that did make it a little bit more challenging for them, because they didn't have a vision from the beginning of what an online course looked like. And they were learning as they were going along. And they were making adjustments as they learned.
So that was a positive. But it was really challenging for them, because they were doing this training at the same time as developing rather than ideally do the training and then developing the course. We also had an additional training that was in May, at the very beginning, for all of our faculty but especially for our course developers, 508 requirements.
We had our special learning needs person, and our distance learning person came and did a virtual presentation just for our group talking about advancing equity and inclusion using accessible digital materials. It was really great, and it really gave us an idea of what kind of formats we used. A lot of questions came up as to what is better, do we use PDFs or do we use Word documents? How do we check accessibility in this type of document? And all those questions came up during that training.
So it was a very big consideration because it is a requirement by our community college board and by law that all classes are accessible. So this was a great predevelopment activity that we had for our teachers. And we're going to stop for another time for questions, if you have any.
Heather Martin: Feel free to unmute yourselves.
Audience: I do. Sorry, it's me again.
Heather Martin: That's great.
Audience: So the adult ed program is under the umbrella of the college itself. Correct?
Heather Martin: Yes.
Audience: OK, so the adult ed staff was participating in the training that was given to the entire staff of the college?
Heather Martin: Correct.
Marcia Luptak: Yes, I realize that every state has a different system of how it's set up. Yeah, we fall right directly under our college. That's why, again, the learning management system was dictated by the college. We had to use a certain learning management system. We couldn't just come up with whatever we thought we want to use. So there were some restrictions with that.
But it also helps because we have a lot of institutional support. So as we're going through this we had staff on hand as far as distance learning, as far-- All of these people, special services, all of these individuals were there to help support us in the process as well.
Heather Martin: Yes, it has definitely come with restrictions and support. So I think it's been [inaudible].
Audience: What's the name of your agency again?
Heather Martin: We're at Elgin Community College.
Audience: Thank you.
Heather Martin: All right, we may well move on. OK, so just to give you a brief overview of our timeline, when we first began the project we figured-- well, it was ambitious. We're going to do it in eight weeks. Like Marcia said, we had the time constraint. We couldn't mess with it at all, because contractually we had to have these courses in and reviewed so that they could be given to our instructors.
So we'll go into each one of these steps a little bit more in depth. But, like I said, we prioritize UDL principles. And as such we wanted to make sure that first we came up with our objectives, then developed assessments and then moved to resources and beyond. So week one we just met with the development team and talked about what our topics and modules are going to be and then took our outcomes and turned them into objectives.
Week two was all about assessment, how often will the students be assessed, what will they be asked to, do things like that. Week three they discuss the assessments in groups and develop them. Week for they started to work with content for the first module. And then weeks five through eight they went through the modules and continue to work on them and provide feedback to each other.
So that first step, like I said, developing the objectives, we had created the templates already, and then Marcia actually went in and created a model of taking some course outcomes and turning them into learning objectives for ESL, math, and reading and writing so that they had something to work from. What was surprising about this part of the project is that we figured this part would be the easy part and it would go quite quickly. And that ended up being completely wrong, and our faculty really struggled with developing the objectives from the outcome.
They, I think, lacked confidence. I think a lot of that was largely probably due to the fact that it was kind of the first step in the process, and we were at the beginning of our first and hopefully only global pandemic. So there was a lot of things coming at everybody, and it just wasn't as smooth a process as we expected for this first step.
We do wish we could have had training on developing objectives. And even though our original timeline for this step of the project was one week, I would say it took some people up to three weeks to go and do all of their outcomes into objectives. And it was at this point, this very first step, that the faculty that was developing the courses started asking about materials and resources, which is the theme that you will see throughout, because as we said we really wanted to prioritize that UDL. We really wanted to make sure that the materials were coming last and that we were really assessing our objectives.
So after we had our outcomes and objectives, we did move on to assessment. So the first issue that we ran into is that assessments does not equal test. And our developers really kind of struggled getting around that mental hurdle. And a lot of this is due to habit. They've been teaching-- we put them in courses to develop that they were quite familiar with. So they've been using a lot of assessments for many years or semesters, and kind of taking them away from those tests and asking them to realign how they were approaching things ended up being a bit difficult.
So not only did they have to focus on a different way of assessing, I think at first they were like, how do we put this test that we've used into the LMS? And Marcia and I were like, no, no, no, no, no, we don't. So they had to really get past that traditional mindset and come at it to kind of leverage technology and embrace the new technological I guess environment a little bit more.
And this is something where we really, again, would have loved to have more time to provide training for our faculty in not only different ways to assess objectives but how that can be done in an online environment. If we had had all the time in the world I think we would have looked for or created training specifically on formative assessment in an online environment, because I think that was really one of the largest struggles for our developers, especially considering our ESL teachers, for example, are constantly walking around the classroom and listening to their students converse and engage in groups. And I think just having them understand how to be able to replicate that in an online environment was a task that took longer than we had.
Marcia Luptak: OK, so the next step in our process is looking at resources. So our instructors wanted to jump to resources right away. But we wanted them to think about what they were teaching before they started looking at resources, because we really wanted them to match the resources with what they were teaching rather than saying, hey, here's a resource. I'm going to just follow this resource and let it lead my class. So the team leaders actually went ahead in advance and looked at different resources to kind of present to the faculty as possibilities.
We really wanted to look for resources that were frequently updated. We didn't want something that had been sitting there for a long time or that wasn't managed on a regular basis because those become stale quite easily. We also looked to see if the resource was leveled, because we wanted to make sure that for our classes if we're using the same resource for multiple classes that teachers could do the appropriate level for that class.
We also looked to make sure they were segmented because we wanted to make sure that there were clear breaks between sections so they'd be easier for students to follow along. We also looked for things that maybe had parings so that there were additional resources that would go with the lesson or with the website that might be helpful to the synchronous lesson. The other thing that we looked at in advance for the faculty is we looked at whether resources were 508 compliant, because this was really important. We had to have this.
We also made sure that the resource that we selected were accessible on different devices, because again, smartphones really prevalent in our population, a lot of people were using smartphones. We wanted to make sure that they could get onto these research resources and use them effectively on those phones. We also looked for Creative Commons licensing, open education resources, because these were more cost effective for us as a program, and would make it more sustainable long term because we were looking-- when we were designing this, we were thinking not just COVID. We were thinking about what could we do even after COVID. So we wanted to make it sustainable.
After we went through, we kind of picked some resources that we thought were really good. We asked faculty if they had resources also that they wanted us to review and make sure that they matched up with these guidelines. And once we got that list we reviewed them with the teams. The teams would meet and they would say, OK, here are two or three resources that we are going to use as a supplement to our classes.
We told teachers that we don't want to have 50 different websites. That's not effective. Students will get lost. Consistency is really important. So one of the websites we talked about was USA Learns. It was like, OK, we'll use that in level one, level two. We really want to make sure that we picked solid sites that really were good resources, not just a resource for resource.
One of the things that we did find was that faculty really had difficulty with this concept. Many of them had been very textbook-based. And they didn't like the idea of not being able to just use a textbook and go through the lessons in textbook.
But we kind of talked about using smaller passages, that textbooks are hard to read online, that you wouldn't get something that's reader-friendly online. And you want some that's interactive. If you just have worksheets, those aren't interactive. If you go online and you find a good website, you going to find things that are interactive.
All right, we'll move to the next one. So one of the resources that we selected this was for our math classes, for our ABE, ASE classes, was CK-12 And one of the reasons why we chose this site-- and we will go into this if we have time at the end so you can actually see the site. But some of the things that we liked about it is that you can set up a class in this site.
So you're able to track student progress. You can see what students did in there. You can assign lessons to students so that it's very specific what they need to do when they go in there.
Another thing that we liked was it was very dynamic and it had interactive activities. So the students would actually be given a problem, they click on it. If they get right, it says yes, that's correct. If they got it wrong, it gives them an explanation and says, hey try again. You might want to think about this. So it was giving them feedback like a teacher would in a face-to-face classroom.
The other thing that we liked was that any videos or explanations were very short. Again, time is important for students when they're online. If it's too long, they're not going to watch it, they're not going to read it. It adjusts automatically to a student's level. So if a student misses a lot it will go down the level. If a student gets everything right, it will go up a level.
It allows, again, teachers to see that mastering progress. But it allows students to see mastery and progress as well. So they can check and see how they're doing. The teachers found it very easy to navigate, very easy to set up. And allowed for that individualization that we were looking for, because again, adult ed students, even if they're in the same level, they're not the same level. So we wanted to make sure teachers could individualize if they needed to within their classrooms. And again, wonderful resource, all of these things. And it was free and open.
For our beginning ESL classes one of the websites that they selected was USA Learns. USA Learns was developed by through the Department of Education many, many years ago. It's very user friendly. It's very simple. Again, you can set it up as a class so you can give assignments to students so it's clear to them what they need to do.
You can monitor students' progress as a faculty member if you set it up as a class. You can see what students have done, what they haven't. It has very short videos, and all of the videos have a text that goes with them. So the students can actually watch the video and read the text as they go along, a lot of interactive activities where you listen and then you can say the word into your microphone and hear yourself, flashcards.
All of these things are more interactive than just giving students a worksheet with directions and say, fill out the worksheet. Again, leveled, contextualized, and free. So teachers really liked this site.
For reading this was for our intermediate advanced ESL readers, as well as our ABE, ASE. We looked at several different resources. ReadWorks was an excellent resource. Newsela was another one that was really good. Both of those had their plus and minuses.
One of the discoveries that we made that we really [audio out] CommonLit, commonlit.org. Again, really easy to set up a class, really easy for students to navigate. It is leveled, and you can select themes or you can select levels or you can select both. So you can really specify what types of readings you're looking for. It has units and class lessons and paired readings.
So you might have a story. And it might have a video that the students can watch as well that are already paired for you so you don't have to go searching for those. The readings themselves are amazing. They are accessible. The students can have them read aloud to them most of them. You can change the font sizes on them.
The text are glossed. So they have definitions at the bottom of the document. Some of them have translations if the students need to translate for the lower levels if they're not sure. They can translate it. You can turn that off as a teacher if you choose, but it is available for them.
It allows students to highlight and annotate the text. So you could do this in class and the students could see each other, see annotations. The exercises are really easy. They have assessments and discussions for this.
The other thing is that you can download the reading exercise and the questions into PDF, if you want. If you want the students to work offline, if they have limited bandwidth, they can always download the story and do all the exercises there if they want. There's a pre-assessment in there. And again, it is free. And somebody asked me to type it in. It's commonlit.org.
Another really great thing about it is it has teacher support. They have webinars regularly to help teachers learn the different features of it. So it's a really great website. It's used a lot in K-12. All right, next.
OK, so the other thing that our teachers wanted to look for was something for our intermediate and advanced students that would help them with reading and grammar. And this is another website that it was really an amazing find as we were looking through everything else. It's called Quill, and it's Quill.org.
Again, it allows you to set up classes, monitor students' progress, easy to use. It has a diagnostic. So if you wanted to individualize instruction you can have the students do the diagnostic and assign them lessons according to what they need, which is just wonderful. A lot of teachers like that. The rings in it are leveled. They have the readability levels. It's linked to Common Core standards.
It includes writing, grammar. It has different topics. It gives you the option to do whole class instruction or just independent practice, like I said, if we use for students that need maybe a little bit of remediation and something. And again, this is a free resource. So these were some of the ones that we found that we really, really liked.
OK, so I'm going to stop for a second. It says, the slides you shared are not the slides you're sharing now.
Heather Martin: Yeah, I just saw that. No, you are correct. I shared the wrong presentation. I am sorry. How in the world did that happen? I put it in the wrong folder. I apologize.
Audience: It is Friday.
Heather Martin: I feel like this could be [inaudible]
Audience: It's like this happened on Friday.
Heather Martin: --Monday or a Friday.
Heather Martin: So, Marcia why don't you go ahead with the-- Oh, sorry. Am I even sharing this line anymore? What are you looking at? OK, why don't you go ahead, and I will make sure that I put the correct one in the chat while you're going through this slide.
Marcia Luptak: OK, it is Friday and we did change a few things as we were going along. So sorry.
Heather Martin: Sorry.
Marcia Luptak: Did you want to go-- do you want us to go back and just kind of show the-- no, I'll just move forward. We'll share the resources at the end. We have the links to the resources. So you'll be able to see them.
OK, so some of the activities that-- again, we were talking about activities that we would share with the students. We talked a lot about video lessons. Again, the conversation with teachers was that we wanted to make sure the video lessons were preferably five minutes or less, because students don't want to watch a 20 minute video. We have the synchronous component to do more of that direct instruction.
So the video lessons that we looked at we were trying to use as a reinforcement or maybe the flipped model where the students would watch something really brief and then be able to bring questions to class. We also want to make sure that they were accessible, that they had closed captioning on them so that students would be able to read them if they needed to. Checked for Creative Commons licensing, open resources.
Another way we use videos is we use video pairings, like TED Talks, to go with something that students were reading, content related types of videos. We did use some worksheets probably more than we would have liked honestly because worksheets are problematic in an LMS and in distance learning, because now we get into that cell phone issue, we get into that tablet issue. It's harder for students to access a Word document or a PDF.
Word document you can type into, a PDF you can't type into. So they'd have to print the worksheets. We talked about using Google, but then we ran into sharing issues because the document would be owned by the teacher who created it. But we were sharing these classes across different platforms, or sections I should say. So there were many teachers teaching the class, and you didn't want everybody asking you for access for other classes.
So we had some challenge with worksheets. We're still working on that to be honest. We're telling teachers to do it in Word and then when the class is shared with them they can upload it into Google Docs to make it easier for students. And that way it's in their folder and they have access and they can grant permissions. They can see the students work rather than having Google Docs in there that goes to a different teacher.
Other activities that we included were discussion boards. We used surveys and quizzes to kind of assess students. But again surveys and quizzes, surveys were maybe a reflective question or two or three questions just learning check. The quizzes were a little bit longer. But we try to keep those within a 30 minute quiz at the most for assessment, because again, we try to emphasize to our teachers that online things are much more difficult, much more challenging, take much more time.
Other things that we included were, like I talked about, reflections, what did you learn, what more do you want. Students have the chance to get that feedback to teachers. And we did a lot of projects.
So one of the things that the teachers did is the students would do a photo project. So they could take a picture and write a story about it, and it'd be more personal for them, or we had some echo readings where the students would read something and then they would report it and the teacher would listen to it. So there are all sorts of different activities that we used.
Heather Martin: And then the last step was actually creating the class in the LMS. So as we've said, we had this whole thing developed in a shared Google folder or a series of shared Google folders. And once we went to put them into the LMS was where we realized some limitations that we previously had not been as aware of as we could have been.
One of the main limitations that we ran into was the limitation of the tools that we had to use for assessments. There were not as many kind of creative tools as we would have liked for our lower level specifically. Embedding pictures and symbols and things like that was very difficult, which obviously is not ideal specifically for our lower levels.
We ran into the same issue with a lot of our math classes. Diagrams were very difficult. Some of the assessment tools took a lot of clicks to get into. So that was an issue, because as we said we wanted to make sure that the students had as simple a navigation process as possible.
The type of feedback that was able to be given in some of the tools was not as robust as we would have liked, and didn't allow for as much creativity or variety as we would have liked. And there was just really an overall lack of flexibility in the assessment tool in the LMS. So that was somewhat problematic, and we're still working on the best ways to assess our students in different levels.
We have some things like the resources that Marcia shared earlier where they're just embedded in linked in the LMS and things like that, lots of different creative assessments that our faculty is working with. But not many of them are embedded in the LMS. They're more linked as tasks for the students to complete.
So in addition to that, we also, as Marcia said, we use checklists. I don't know if any of you were familiar with D2L. They have module guides which are kind of a winding map of crazy roads that crisscross in my opinion.
But the checklist is nice and simple. The students click on it, and it's just task 1, 2, 3, 4. And they can check it which allows this teacher to see the progress that the student is making, even if it's a task that's not done in the LMS. So for example, they might have to watch a video or practice something, and they can just check that off even though it's not something that the teacher will have the ability to evaluate.
We ran into issues with flipped classroom. And that was more of-- I think that was more due to a time constraint and a lack of training and a lack of familiarity with the tools we had at our disposal than anything else. Marcia mentioned the Google Drive issues. We're still working on getting everyone to force copies on their Google Docs and Google Drive, because we do have some teachers that just get like 200 surveys submitted to their Google form, and they're not their students.
And then we also-- an issue that we had was that some of our faculty was not confident in uploading their courses into the LMS. So because of the time crunch and because of the nature of the pandemic and the situation that it was, we did have primarily Marcia and me uploading several of the courses ourselves with the things that had been created by the developers.
So questions. Thank you, Holly, for the evaluation in the chat. Thank you. Yes. All right, so we are going to, if there are no questions, we will move on. And our contact information is on the slides, which you now have because I sent you the correct document this time. I apologize. So yes, so you can email us with any questions.
All right, so now we're getting into kind of what happened once the courses were moving.
Marcia Luptak: OK, so ideally we would have had a very robust review of the classes, because again, we had a month-- we didn't have a month. We had about a week after the class were finished before we had to publish the classes for other faculty to look at and to prepare for the fall semester.
So part of the review process was during while we were doing it. The faculty did have a class share the ones that we're developing, and they did provide feedback to one another that was very helpful. I would really highly recommend doing this kind of development in teams because some of the ideas that were carried across were just excellent.
Due to the limited time there was less review than faculty wanted to do. I did receive emails saying, hey, I'd really like to look at this closer. There's some things I'd like to get comments on. I just don't have the time. I'm developing my own class. I can't review the other one as much as I would like to.
And we would have also like to have released the classes that had time to do a final peer review where people who were teaching the classes that didn't develop them could give some feedback. But again, during the summer we didn't have that opportunity. We did do it later, and we'll talk about it afterwards about what we did after to review it. But at the time we didn't have that time.
It was also reviewed by administration. Heather went through the classes. I went through the classes. Our dean went through the classes. But we had 20 classes that we had to review in a week. So again, it wasn't as thorough as we would have liked, and we did go back and do more of the review afterwards.
And usually distance learning would have also done a complete review to look for accessibility, look for formatting and everything else, but they had all of the classes at the college they had to work with, which were I think 140, 150 classes all come in at the same time. So they didn't have the chance to do that review either. So we did a brief review process, but not as thorough as what we would have liked and would have done in an ideal situation.
So after-- go ahead. Sorry.
Heather Martin: I was fine. That's OK.
Marcia Luptak: You're good.
Heather Martin: OK, so we did have training for the faculty. Like we already said, there was an institutionally mandated LMS course that all the faculty in the college was required to take. Additionally, we created departmentally some Zoom trainings for the faculty, and we recorded them and emailed them and put them on our website.
We did the same thing for kind of more of a course navigation training. We found that the training that was provided by the college was very technical and didn't really get at the practical ins and outs as much as our faculty would have liked. So we did do more of the training kind of within the courses once they had them, and they knew what they were working with instead of out of context, which they had previously had.
We've had institutional support. Our distance learning team has been fantastic, and they answer faculty questions all the time and our questions all the time. And we've also had one on one sessions with faculty as necessary. We've had some faculty that have had a bit more of a learning curve, and we have spent many hours on Zoom meetings with them just making sure they have the tools and the support they need to help their students.
In addition, we've also had continuous faculty support. I have had weekly office hours for our faculty, specifically for tech support. I did it twice weekly for probably the first month and a half to two months of fall semester. I did it at the end of fall semester to help them with any wrap up tech stuff they needed to get their end of the semester stuff done.
And then I did it for the first month of spring semester, and I will do it again at the end of spring semester. And I'm sure I will do it again at summer semester. But they do have weekly office hours accessible to them. Additionally, like I said, our distance learning team is always available to them, which has been great.
We continue to have the one on one sessions as necessary as does our distance learning team. And we do have D2L to support, our LMS, and that was purchased by the institution, which again, is why we chose the LMS to begin with. So our faculty has not only the actual D2L support team as support but they also have our distance learning team and us departmentally.
And then we did kind of follow up at the midterm. We had faculty feedback first. We had group meetings for every single level offered in the program. And we had Zoom meetings where they could meet with me and they could meet with Marcia, just give all their feedback.
We did find that most of the feedback we got was not content related, but it was format or access related. So we were able to make some changes in the courses based on that feedback. We also had shared documents set up and email procedures set up if they couldn't attend the meetings so that they could provide feedback.
We had student feedback. Our access to student feedback is limited for contractual reasons. So we were able to pull them-- well, we were able to give their instructors a poll, I believe, to give to the students, if they so choose. And we had just under 600 students in the program at the time, and we had just over 200 responses. So we had a pretty good response rate.
And we asked them basically what preferences they had going into fall as we were still making decisions about fall at that time. And the majority of our student, that 60.8% that you see in green, wanted to have classes just the way they were, staying fully remote with half of it synchronous and half of it asynchronous. I believe that 27.5%, Marcia, was that the hybrid on campus and asynchronous?
Marcia Luptak: No, that was face to face fully.
Heather Martin: Oh, was that fully face to face? OK.
Marcia Luptak: Fully face to face.
Heather Martin: Sorry about that.
Marcia Luptak: And I'll just mention a couple of things. This poll was taken in fall 2021, and we were asking students for fall of 2022. So we really wanted to know because we we're trying to make planning. We already knew spring was going to be online. We really wanted to plan for the next fall and see if we can come back to classes if students wanted to come back to class.
And that 60%, students were really worried about COVID, so a lot of even the ones that said face to face said they would go online if COVID was still an issue, so even the ones that said they did want face to face. The red and the yellow talk about hybrid classes. So students we're looking at a face to face and online component. Some of them said that would work. The other thing that came out of this just-- Sorry to budge in, Heather--
Heather Martin: Go for it.
Marcia Luptak: --was that we were reaching a lot of students that we weren't able to reach before. We had a lot of students saying, hey, I love that you have online classes. I couldn't take classes before face to face. Students would love the fact that the classes were shorter because we could start them later and they could get home from work, and they didn't have to worry about rushing off to school.
So part of this was COVID related that students were concerned about coming back to campus because of safety. But part of the 60% were because they actually preferred the format. It worked better for them.
Heather Martin: We also, in addition to that, we haven't had a lot-- we don't have a lot of data on our retention and persistence since we're still kind of in a pandemic, unfortunately. So we have not been doing this long enough to have solid data on that. Additionally, our state database for adult ed we got a new version of it this past summer, because there's no better time to change your database than in the midst of a pandemic.
So we do have limited ability to make comparisons to previous years with certain things. But our students did-- or sorry, our teachers rather, did report a high success rate and a higher pass rate for the students. So in that way it's been very positive.
Marcia Luptak: OK, so we're going to finish up with the lessons that we've learned. Through this process we've kind of mentioned them as we went through. But we want to summarize them a little bit. We're going to start with some of the things that we need to do. And then talk about some of the things that were really positive that came out of it.
So we decided that if we-- in a perfect world with lots of time we needed to have training, put classrooms and UDL for faculty. I think some training, they would have gotten the idea little bit better. It was a quick switch over. Some of them were trying to think about backwards design, and it was a little challenging for them.
I think that would have made our classes less text-dependent overall. Even in our face to face classes I think that training and UDL would really be helpful for a face to face when we go back as well. We also could have used some assessment training, as Heather mentioned, as far as how to do this in a virtual situation.
Other things that we discovered is that we really needed more training in our LMS. We had the six week training, but it didn't go into the nitty-gritty of how to upload a video, how to upload this, how to do the really specific things that teachers learned that they needed to do with the class. So it would have been nice to have had more practical training. The training was more philosophical. And that would have been better for us at this point.
Another thing we thought about that training is that because it was all online-- the training was originally supposed to be partially face to face. And I think that the discussion between faculty wasn't as strong as it could have been as a result. Another thing that we decided was that we could have had more round tables or discussions with teachers in specific courses.
So the course developers, a course developer would do a level 2 class, it would have been nice for all the level 2 teachers to come in and talk with the course developer and talk about how it's structured, what the philosophy is in person, rather than just having it in notes, because it's harder to translate it on paper. If they could have walked through say, hey, here's this lesson. This is what I was thinking, it would have been helpful for the teachers.
One of the biggest things we found out is that our tech savvy instructors, their students were much more successful. So again, giving teachers more support in learning the technology, giving them more practice on using the technology so that they have that confidence would mean better student success overall, because the students can kind of tell when the teacher is nervous. The other thing that we talked about was the inconsistent student ability in technology that maybe we could do more training with the students with technology specific. All right.
Heather Martin: All right. And something else we learned was that we don't have the support we need. And what that means is we do-- like we've said, we have a phenomenal distance learning team. And I cannot even imagine how little they've slept in the last 11 months, because I feel like every time Marcia and I email them for a meeting they are more than willing to do it, and we are just two of several people they are serving.
So while we do have amazing support, we do need more of it. And specifically we need more support in the evenings because we do have a large population that attend evening classes. And we also do not have any bilingual support that I know of, and we are technically a Hispanic serving institution. I mean our ESL program serves several other languages obviously, but even just having a bilingual English Spanish support in place would be very helpful.
Another issue with the support is that our website is very difficult for our students to navigate. It is very academic looking and it's very dense. So it's not clear where the students need to go for support. There are several different places they could go, and it kind of makes it seem like-- there's not a lot of confidence that you're choosing the right one.
So the website needs to be a little bit friendlier for our students to navigate, definitely less complex text, less dense text. And if we could have PM and bilingual support that would be beautiful. And we don't have Zoom support at our institution, which is quite interesting because we do have an institutional Zoom license.
So I would say me personally most of the support that I provide students is Zoom based. They need help with Zoom over anything else because usually their instructors can get them through the LMS OK, but they can't get to their instructors as well without Zoom. So that's where I spend a lot of time with my students.
Marcia Luptak: OK, so some of the positives is that we found that we used a consistent platform and using consistent tools across the level has been very beneficial for both teachers and students, because our teachers don't necessarily teach the same level from semester to semester. And having it standardized as the students have progressed to the second semester, both teachers and students are telling us, hey, this is a lot easier this time around. I get it.
We also did an orientation that was for the students the first week of classes that's in D2L that they go through with their teachers, and that's in every class so that every time they start the semester they go through an orientation so that if they forgot how to use something, it's a quick reminder. And a lot of teachers again, said this is very helpful because they don't just jump into a class. They jump into an orientation. They get to know the students. They get to know you, exercises during this orientation, and really simple things within the LMS.
Another thing that we found is that our faculty is-- most of them, I won't say all of them. Most of them have said they are so happy to have this course shell to start from. They teach at other institutions. Some of them are using canned courses. And they said they love having a core shell because they have things there for them to teach.
They have a starting point, but they also have the flexibility to add or delete things as their students need them. So it gives them a lot of flexibility. The other thing they've talked about is that in our core shell we have a lot of things that are students working together. We have a lot of things where they-- I'm sorry. I lost my train of thought. But it's that collaboration of the students that's part of the lesson that were built in there that don't exist in the canned programs. So they've been reporting really positive things about it.
I will tell you the other positive thing that we found is that there's been an amazing, amazing amount of growth by both students and faculty, a lot more dependents in the fall. This spring don't have as big questions. The students are flourishing, and the students are actually telling their teachers-- this is being reported to me by teachers and by students who emailed me that they feel so much better about themselves because they are navigating in an online environment.
They feel much more confidence. They feel like they're developing their technical skills. They're really excited about yes, I'm learning language, or yes, I'm learning math, yes, I'm learning reading, but I'm also learning how to use the computer. I'm also learning how to communicate online. I'm also learning all these things. And they're very excited about it.
Heather Martin: And so our students, as we said earlier, are very happy to have an online option. They have crazy work schedules, and they have so many different moving parts in their daily lives. So they've been really appreciative to have this option, and that does extend beyond just COVID.
A lot of our teachers are reporting a greater sense of community. And we have more students using office hours. We have students more actively engaged during their independent time when they're not face to face with their instructors or synchronously meeting with their instructors. Our students are much better advocates for themselves than they used to be. They are very good at contacting people and saying, this is my problem and this is what I need help with.
And that's something that we didn't see as strongly when we just had face to face classes. We have way fewer subs than we used to and more consistent attendance by, well, obviously faculty and students because of the online environment. We've only had a handful of subs in the semester and a half that we've been doing this, which is great. And additionally, it has been cost saving overall.
So those are some of the lessons we have learned, and we do have some time for questions. And there was a question that was put in the chat that I said I would get to afterwards. So just to clarify the question was about the students' pass rate.
Our students do take the CASAS test, but their progress through our program is not dependent on their performance on the CASAS test. So we do have departmentally standardized-- we call them assessment forms. They're basically competency checklists that each level has, and the students must demonstrate mastery of the competencies before they can move from one level to the next.
So while they do test on CASAS, that is not taken into consideration when passing for one level to the next, and ESL specifically. In our math and reading, Marcia, you can probably talk a little bit more about that and how they've been performing.
Marcia Luptak: So it's very similar with the math and reading classes. They do have an initial placement on-- we're using the CASAS goals now. It used to be the TABE test that we used. We do have an initial placement with that. But we do an interview with the students as well to get some of their background and their history, how long have they been out of school, what grade did they complete to help with that placement process.
As far as moving from level to level, again, we have standardized assessments that we usually use to say, OK, if a student can do this, this, this, and this and has demonstrated it in class and homework, in everything else, the student moves the next level. We all know the shortcomings of standardized testing. We do test them. We pretest them. We post test them.
We were meeting our state targets with the testing. We don't know yet for this year just because it took us so long to get online testing and distance testing set up. A lot of our students pretested later in the fall semester and are just post testing now. So we're not really sure about our outcomes that way. We'll find out at the end of the school year.
But as far as persistence we had more students who were fall classes, continued to spring classes than we usually do. I do know that, again, attendance has been better. We've had students who have been able to attend classes all through COVID. They've had COVID. They've been--
Heather Martin: We've had students attend from hospital beds. I know teachers that have had students attend from hospital beds.
Marcia Luptak: So to us that says what we're doing is really working. Students want to be there. They like what we're doing. They're being successful. That's the best measure for me is that students [inaudible]
Heather Martin: We do not encourage them to attend from hospital beds though, just saying, making that clear.
Marcia Luptak: No, no, no, no. Yes.
Heather Martin: They appreciate the convenience. But we hope they get better and take the time [inaudible].
Marcia Luptak: Yeah, our quarantine students have been just so happy that they can go to class. And with isolation everybody likes having the sickness lessons. They feel like they have more connection with other people in this COVID environment.
Heather Martin: I know some of our teachers have said they say good night to their students kids. The same time every night the kid runs over and gives mom a kiss and waves to the class and runs back. So they have reported a larger sense of community, which is really interesting because that was something we were concerned would suffer in their remote setting.
What other questions are there? We only have a couple of minutes left. So I will put the resources up there. We're not going to have time to go into them. And then our contact information is on the last slide. No more classes. Hopefully not. No.
If our developers made it through developing a course in eight weeks it was not the courses that put the students in the hospital or the developers thankfully. All right, well I will put our contact information up there. And if you have any questions we've got another 2 minutes.
If not, you've got our contact information and a set of slides, and a bonus set of slides that you can look at if you so choose or can delete. So I'm sorry. And feel free to contact us with anything. You can hang out and ask questions or you can go on your way. Thank you.