At least 80 Anne Arundel County school officials, administrators and teachers were able to experiment with the new online learning management system for two weeks.
During the Anne Arundel Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, school officials provided updates on what the online learning management system will look like for schools. They also decided to resume in-person board meetings for the board members starting Oct. 7, although the public will still have to watch online.
The two-week period allowed educators around the county and administrators to evaluate and comment on learning systems before the system made a selection, Superintendent George Arlotto said.
Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz said those who will work with the management system the most were tapped to try the systems out and to "evaluate and judge whether they met their criteria and needs.”
The “sandbox” was what the companies created to allow schools to interact with a live version of the systems, school officials explained.
After the trial, the board voted to approve the contract of nearly $2.9 million to the company, D2L.
The system, Brightspace, will be rolled out to the school system and will fully operate in the second semester, Arlotto said.
The platform can be used to create, host or edit online learning resources, according to the contract document. It can also be integrated with Google, PowerSchool and other platforms the school system currently uses.
School content will be moved onto the platform and teachers, staff and families will be trained on how to navigate and use the system.
Conduct in classes
The school board also discussed recent challenges seen in online classes.
For the first two weeks of the school year, some students who were not signed up for a class, appeared and were disruptive.
School board member Candace Antwine, who represents District 1, asked what is being done about online security.
“I read a few emails that talked about interruptions during the class period to include racial slurs being introduced while classes were going on by people outside of the class,” she said.
Deputy Superintendent Monique Jackson said the student code of conduct is still in place and school officials investigated what happened and will hold students accountable for such behavior.
“We are working with a collaborative team through OSP technology to help produce some how-to-videos for our teachers so that if an unfortunate incident occurs, they are able to utilize some technological advances in order to shut the class down or exit the student.”
In one incident, a student used a racial slur, but Jackson said students have been posting on social media about popping up in other classes.
“What happens as we always know when one incident happens, it tends to be multiplied, the impact is multiplying because of social media,” Jackson said.
Arlotto added that students needed an access code to be able to log into a class that they were not signed up for and so students might be sharing their codes. In general, students must have a school system address to get into online class, according to Jackson.
Anne Arundel schools are not the only system dealing with online interruptions.
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In Chicago, incidents of inappropriate images of guns or pornography were shared during classes. Loudoun County, in Virginia, had reports of explicit images or racial slurs being used as part an effort to disrupt online classes.
Russell Leone, president of the teacher’s union, said some teachers contacted him about online class interruptions but added it “has not been a great outcry from teachers about this.”
Student board member Drake Smith said a student, who was not part of that class period, had gotten into the community wellness class but was kicked out after making disruptive, though not derogatory, comments.
“I’m glad we are finding ways to curb this virtual vitriol,” he said.
So far this school year, the school system documented seven bullying incidents and two incidents of hateful behavior, one due to race and another due to religion.