By Kevin Shane / February 13, 2018
EdCheck Yourself Before You EdTech Yourself Part 3: [Building an Efficient Workflow]
As part of our EdCheck Yourself Before You EdTech Yourself series, we’ve covered how to give your EdTech ecosystem a check-up and how to fine-tune your user permissions to optimize for privacy and security.
This part of the series will focus on understanding and building your EdTech workflows, and we thought it would be beneficial to look at workflow and how it has potentially changed with the advent of a lot of new educational technology. When I started teaching, my workflow was simple: I passed out assignments/assessments, students completed them, I checked/collected them, entered the grades, and returned important assessments. From talking to other teachers, it seems like this was the most common workflow for teachers for a long time. However, all the new technology that has come into teachers’ hands over the last few years could possibly change this workflow. In fact, assignments done completely digitally, e.g. online quizzes, assignments on Google Drive, etc., should change this.
Emphasizing an efficient workflow will provide an immediate benefit to both teachers and students. Teachers need an efficient workflow in order to manage workloads, and they can have more time to work with students if they don’t have to worry about spending class time collecting and passing assignments back; students, if they know to follow a direct workflow, have more of their time dedicated to learning because their classroom will run much more efficiently. Students who have clear guidelines on procedures will have more time on task.
What does an efficient workflow look like? It should follow these tips:
- It saves you time. Having a dedicated workflow is all about saving you time so you can focus on the important things.
- It’s scalable from a small class to a large class. You shouldn’t have to change what you’re doing just because your class size changes from semester to semester or year to year.
- It’s easy to get everyone on board quickly. If you have to spend a lot of time explaining things and figuring it out, it doesn’t end up saving you time (goes along with #1).
- If one step changes, it doesn’t break your entire flow. You can modify small parts based on your needs for the task at hand while keeping the majority of your workflow intact.
- You can keep refining it as circumstances change. You shouldn’t have to rework everything because you have a new class or a new type of assignment. It should work for individual students and groups of students, it should work for Reading assignments and Math assignments, etc.
If you successfully implement an efficient workflow, not only will you have more time to spend on students, but you will have more time for other important things as well. Here at Learnmetrics, we’ve helped schools do this in a few ways.
Workflow 1 – Data Efficiency: Before we started working with this school, all of their data was scattered throughout PowerSchool and an enterprise behavior management system. To access grades, teachers had to go to one page, they had to go to a different page to access attendance, and had to go to a different site entirely to access behavior information. Accessing each page individually doesn’t take too much time, just the time for the page to load, but it is woefully inefficient and causes an even bigger time loss when looking at multiple students. By viewing students individually or searching for and generating aggregated reports, teachers could be spending upwards of 1-2 hours in these systems each time they wanted to access the information.
For this school, we put as much relevant information about a student as possible on one page: Grades, absences, tardies, behavior issues, etc. We helped teachers solve this problem by moving everything to one view – saving them login time and hours avoiding downloads. Better yet, we iterated and started small, only putting some things on that page until we ended up making more and more changes for them to help scale and develop their efficient workflow, putting this information at their fingertips.
Workflow 2 – Data Entry to Provide Feedback to Students Quickly: One data point alone might not mean much for an individual student. Schools we work with recognize this and are more interested in trends over time. For one school, they wanted to overlap MAP and AIMS testing data over three testing windows to help teachers know more about students as quickly as possible.
On one hand, MAP testing data is easy and very efficient for schools to work with. The turnaround is quick from when a test is given to when a school knows a student’s score and can access and pull that information from NWEA’s systems. AIMSweb, on the other hand, is not nearly as efficient. The tests must be administered, scored, and entered into the AIMS website manually. Data might be viewable relatively quickly, but to export information, the delay can be as long as 24 hours. This breakdown in efficiency leads to schools not having data as quickly as they would like and the process as a whole can take teachers days before they’re even able to reconnect with students about next steps.
Comparing all of those test scores with data arriving at different times proved difficult with all the data stemming from different areas. Large, unwieldy spreadsheets and PDFs were created that took hours to comb through and understand. Instead, we combined all of it into metrics that were easy and quick to understand which in turn gave valuable time back to educators at that school. While we can’t make the administration process more efficient for them, we have solved the access issue.
Workflow 3 – Merging Systems to Plan for Institution Efficiency: Our love for interoperability is no secret. Out of the box, we can integrate several data sources from spreadsheets, SISs, and manual data entry. All of this being in one place means teachers don’t have to spend time worrying about multiple systems when looking for information about a student, and administrators looking to get a whole-school picture don’t have to fish for data; everything they need is on one page, right in front of them.
For one large school district, we took student and instructor data from multiple SISs that were in use across the district and spreadsheets some schools were using and put it all together in one place. Previously, school leaders had been doing this and organizing reports that took 2-3 weeks to generate. Instead of having to draw from multiple sources like they did before, people at the district now know exactly what is going on in each school and the district as a whole and the school leaders are now spending no time at all on those reports.
At Learnmetrics, we work to streamline the processes and tasks that bog down educators during every step of their workflows. We want them to have as much time to focus on students as possible.
EdTech Ecosystem Efficiency: We’re looking to find schools/teachers who will help us document this process from start to finish. If you’re interested in hearing how we can customize our platform to suit your needs, contact us. Identify and change inefficient parts of your workflow today!