Greetings to all the hard-working dedicated folks in the Canadian settlement language training sector. It’s been one very interesting and challenging 12 months for educators and especially learners. This is the third in the series of project bulletins we launched last April. We want to keep you informed about how our project is working to respond to the sector’s needs, especially during the pandemic.
Needless to say, we were just as surprised as anyone by the onset of COVID-19, and it caught us in the midst of getting www.avenue.ca ready for launch as IRCC’s new learning portal for the LINC Sector. Pre-COVID, we understood and supported blended learning, and supporting online remote learning was already part of the medium-term plan, but suddenly it became necessary to adapt blended learning courseware to online delivery and coach teachers along to enable it.
So here we are in March 2021 and there’s hope Canada can beat this menace down by the end of the year but there are still some months to go before we can really relax. Avenue was launched in August and EduLINC went offline to students on December 23rd. Account requests are one metric we can use to judge Avenue’s success. On November 1st we had fulfilled 8,000 account requests. By March 2021 that number had risen to 17,520.
Teachers continue to express 90+ satisfaction with the teacher training stages, and our in-service supports like Live Help, the teacher only forums, and email continue to be fully engaged. We’ve seen a 400%+ increase in demand for the free PD since March but our capacity to take on new LINC mentees remains strong. Like all LT pros in our sector, our coast-to-coast network of 19 teacher mentors has risen to the current challenges.
Meanwhile our development and IT team has not stood still. Here are some enhancements made to Avenue since the August launch:
The ePortfolio solution was launched in November but we’re still adding, tweaking and building it out. Since launch we’ve improved it so teachers can:
- view their learners’ ePortfolios;
- upload files to their learners’ ePortfolios;
- view all of their learners’ artifacts, including those from courses they do not teach;
- access the ESL Literacy, Stage II, and Stage I Language Companions;
- use the About Me tag and tool bar filter;
- delete artifacts;
- auto collect the teacher feedback;
- edit the artifact information (e.g. skill, file name) after it is collected;
- in addition to PDF and image files, teachers and learners will be able to upload a few new file types to the ePortfolio, including MP3 and MS-Word, PowerPoint and Excel files.
And there’s no fixed timetable yet, but in the near future enhancements will include:
- adding new activity types that can be tagged for auto collection, e.g. Workshop;
- adding new file types that can be uploaded
Beyond the ePortfolio development, here are some other Avenue developments:
- H5P – A new H5P activity was released in the version of Moodle used by Avenue. Improvements include the ability to track user attempts, reset function, a Content Bank for sharing, to name a few.
- Workshop – The Workshop activity enables the collection, review and peer assessment of students’ work. Submissions are assessed using a multi-criteria assessment form defined by the teacher. Students are given the opportunity to assess one or more of their peers’ submissions. Students can obtain two gradebook scores, one for their submission and one for their assessment of their peers’ submissions.
- Scheduler – The Scheduler activity helps teachers schedule appointments with their students. Teachers specify time slots for meetings, and then students choose one of them.
- Group scheduling is also supported.
- Account Manager: This portal tool for teachers is used to create Avenue student accounts and to enroll students into their courses.
- Read Aloud – The ReadAloud activity is designed to assist teachers in evaluating their students reading fluency. Students record a passage, set by the teacher, after which the teacher can mark words as incorrect and get the student WCPM (Words Correct Per Minute) scores.
- Wordcards: Enables a teacher to create custom Wordcards games for encouraging students learning new words.
- Snowman: The Hangman vocabulary game has been replaced with a game of Snowman. Users must guess and spell the target word before the snowman melts.
- Tutela integration through single-sign in: The Avenue-Tutela single sign-in gives teachers in the Avenue community access to the Tutela repository without the need to sign in a second time. Eventually, users will be able to add Tutela resources to a “shopping cart” that can be accessed from Avenue.
- Teacher’s Desk – The Desk is an area on the Avenue for teachers to upload, store and even create or edit word processing documents and slideshow presentations. Teachers can seamlessly access the contents of their Desk from their course in the Avenue LMS.
The collection of PBLA-aligned curriculum e-modules continues to grow. This project itself is developing workplace and digital literacy modules but the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks and other settlement language training organizations across Canada are actively developing modules too.
What is an LMS?
There’s some confusion about the meaning of learning management system (LMS), so let’s try to nail down the term with some clarity. This definition from …Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning (Ed: Anna Distefano, Kjell Erik Rudestam & Robert J. Silverman) works as well as any we’ve seen:
“A learning management system (LMS) is a set of integrated software services that organizes and supports online learning, education, and training. These systems usually provide content uploading and distribution, class administration, and discussion facilities (asynchronous threaded discussion and, less commonly, synchronous or ‘chat’ services). Some offer additional functionality such as assessment tools for online quizzing and testing; homework submission tools for managing the collection, grading, and redistribution of homework assignments to students in an online class; and student profiling to track the progress and performance of individual students using the system. LMSs are generally obtained in the form of a comprehensive software package that presents a unified graphical user interface (GUI) and a consistent method of navigation to guide the user through the system, and …”
Why MOODLE has been our LMS of choice
There are many LMS solutions out there and you’ve probably heard of the most prominent ones: D2L/Brightspace, Blackboard and Canvas. All of those are commercial products that come with licensing fees. All the major LMS solutions do more or less the same things but Moodle is open-source software which means educators can use it and modify it for their own use without cost.
As of March 2021, there are about 173,000 registered Moodle sites spread through 242 countries. There have been about 34,000,000 Moodle courses created to serve 1,427,000,000 learners. (source: https://stats.moodle.org/) Moodle has about a 50% LMS market share in Europe, and 25% in North America.
Moodle users are part of a world-wide community of millions of educators, many of whom contribute LMS improvements back into the community. An important consideration for educators is the approximately 1600 plug in apps available for Moodle, most of them license free, and many of them designed to support language learning.
What to expect from Avenue in the 2021-22 Fiscal Year:
- Continued LINC course hosting, teacher training and in-service support for teachers; engaged in blended (hybrid) or online distance instruction;
- A custom mobile application to improve the small device experience;
- Unified log-in to both Tutela and Avenue;
- Training options and in-service support for CLIC professionals;
- Continued growth in the inventory of PBLA-aligned e-resources.
Survey: The Settlement Language Training Sector Response to COVID-19
In addition to our usual evaluation priorities, we are keen to gather information on how the sector has responded to COVID-19. Please take ten minutes or so to take this survey and help us understand the local impacts of COVID on teaching and learning for you, your learners and your organization. Whether or not you have decided to implement Avenue as your distance learning response to the pandemic, we want to hear from you.
For more information about Avenue professional development for LINC teachers and coordinators, and the learner courseware options, please contact email@example.com Please forward this bulletin to those who may not currently be on our service provider database. Project service inquiries, comments about this bulletin or other questions very welcome.