Providing Content Support for Adult Education Distance Learning
Case Study Background
Georgia Piedmont Technical College provides adult education services to students in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area, with a primary campus in Clarkston, Georgia, and two additional smaller campuses in the surrounding area.
Dr. Meghan McBride
Vice President for Adult Education
Dr. Meghan McBride is a former adult learner who has worked in education since 2007. She currently serves as the Vice President for Adult Education at Georgia Piedmont Technical College in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, where she has worked since 2018. In this position, she oversees a large program that serves more than 3,000 students annually in adult basic education, corrections, English as a Second Language (ESL), and Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) programs, as well as a testing center that offers the GED® exam and HiSET®. She also serves as the first-ever Alumni Advisor to the COABE Board of Directors, in which she shares her perspective as a former student and current practitioner in service to COABE’s mission.
After the shutdown of their campuses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia Piedmont Technical College required a partner that could help standardize distance learning, provide a resource that is accessible to all students, and provide reporting at the administrative level.
Dr. McBride sought a solution that would support distance learning efforts both during the pandemic and in the long term. Without support from her current vendors, she needed a partner who could fill a major gap.
“When the program shut down, we didn’t have a way to reach our students online. We had a supplemental program that allowed students to learn asynchronously on their own, but it was only a supplement, not a real way to reach students. While our teachers put together an a-la-carte toolkit for teaching online, we didn’t have a means of gauging the instructional quality or running reports. Eventually, it became apparent this would be a long-term effort, so we started using Blackboard, but we quickly realized we didn’t have anything that we could put into Blackboard to help our teachers teach. Everything we did prior to the pandemic was traditional. We had nothing that we could import into our learning management system.”
“We looked everywhere for content, but none of the vendors we typically use could help. It quickly became apparent we would need to buy something as the time required to create new content for Blackboard was prohibitive, especially since most of our teachers had never taught online before. I was determined to buy something to make it easier for the teachers.”
“Over the course of the pandemic, my vision became to create a robust, permanent distance learning footprint. We were putting all this effort into it. If the pandemic ever goes away, we aren’t going to let all of our hard work go to waste. So we wanted something that was permanent and interactive and that would relieve the burden for our teachers, but also be quality content for our students.”
“There are companies that exist just to serve the adult education field, and we do buy things from those companies, but when the pandemic hit, they didn’t have products appropriate for our students. That’s where Boardworks filled a huge need for us. Those other companies are starting to catch up, but there’s still nothing out there like Boardworks. At this stage, you either make your own content, or you get Boardworks. For us, it wasn’t even a question.”
Dr. McBride and her team evaluated and selected Boardworks as a resource to fill the content gap that had developed during distance learning.
“96% of our students are still learning remotely. So our teachers are here in the classroom and students are wherever they are on their own devices. And when the teacher shares a Boardworks presentation, students can manipulate the interactive pieces of the lesson on their computer. It really allows the students to touch and feel the content, rather than just watching the teacher. To me, this is vital to formalize and help them internalize what they’re learning.”
“My expectation is that, even when we do come back to campus, we have enough computers to set up labs in our classrooms that allow teachers to leverage Boardworks. Students sitting at their desks can manipulate the presentation rather than coming up to the board. The teacher can have the live lesson displayed on her screen and the students can engage with whatever they’re working on, on their own computers. This is a very exciting new feature for us in the new online Boardworks.”
“What makes Boardworks such a good fit for us is that it’s standards-based and we are a standards-based program. We don’t have to worry about Boardworks content not matching what we’re teaching. It’s just perfect. And we’re able to make changes when needed. We’re currently moving towards IETs and offering job training programs, not adult literacy programs. This means offering contextual and concurrent job training alongside adult literacy courses. The language has to match the field being taught, so we have to be able to manipulate it, which Boardworks allows while remaining standards-based.”
Dr. Meghan McBride, Vice President for Adult Education
A member of the Boardworks team worked closely with a teacher-leader to implement Boardworks and supplement the content needs of Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
“Internally, our advocate for Boardworks took the lead in implementation, working with the Boardworks team to address spacing and content adjustments in the original PowerPoint format. Now we have the newer version and we’re very excited about what it will mean for our efforts. We’re calling it our Blackboard 2.0 because it’s such a huge upgrade over where we started in this journey.”
“My advice to anyone considering Boardworks is to find someone to be a resident expert in your organization. Our instructional coordinator took the lead and has elevated our instructional quality while leading with Boardworks, being the liaison between Boardworks and the teachers, and constantly looking for ways to get more out of the new features and opportunities offered by Boardworks.”
“Our expectations are that every teacher uses Boardworks moving forward because the content is too good and the way the students can work in the system is so advanced that it’s just better than a textbook. Going forward, we won’t be relying on textbooks and worksheets like we were before. It’ll be Boardworks content.”
“What’s even better is that we can modify the content. Content experts among our teachers can lead the charge in making updates and sharing those updates across all of our campuses. Our campuses are geographically very separate so we don’t see each other physically, making it difficult for teachers to share content and work together. It’s one reason the state as a whole and other programs are so interested in Boardworks because it allows us to collaborate as we never have before.”
Boardworks takes what teachers are already comfortable with, which is presentations, but it moves them into the 21st century by being very interactive.
“With Boardworks there was a minimal learning curve. Other than teachers learning how to manipulate content, everyone involved, including students, was able to start using it immediately. Teachers love it because it is something they’re already familiar with, but it takes it to the next level.”
“Another thing we’ve found exciting about the Boardworks Online upgrade is the support it offers to our teachers in correctional facilities who are managing multiple subjects. Prior to the pandemic, the jails had no technology whatsoever, not even the Internet. Now, with access to the Internet, our students in correctional facilities are learning the same as everyone else online, and teachers have access to the full suite of Boardworks content to support their efforts across all subject areas.”
“Numbers don’t lie. We gave our students an opportunity to come to campus and learn the old way, and 96% have chosen not to. They love the interactive content in Boardworks, with everything they need in one place.”
“My vision for the program is that we will rely more heavily on online content to provide the flexibility that our adult learners need. In the Metro Atlanta area, traffic is a nightmare, our students have jobs and families, and getting to campus is a legitimate hardship. By offering this flexibility, we can help them go home from work, be with their families, and complete their course work safely. Boardworks makes it possible without impacting the quality of their learning. Remote learning helps us reach more people and will remain a permanent part of our program. Thanks to Boardworks, we will never go back to the old way of doing things.”