Web cameras in Dublin high school classrooms will connect in-person and remote students
Starting in January with the next Dublin City Schools semester, in-person and remote-learning high school students might be able to connect in real time through a virtual-learning initiative.
Lindie Schweitzer, K-12 coordinator of educational technology for the district, said high school classrooms would be equipped with web cameras to enable students learning online at home to interact with the students in the same class at school. A conference microphone would enable conversation between the groups, she said.
Teachers in the district's three high schools – Coffman, Jerome and Scioto – have been receiving the equipment, said Deputy Superintendent Tracy Deagle.
“Once all the equipment is distributed, every high school classroom will have the tech to livestream,” she said.
Deagle said the goals of the initiative are to increase face time with teachers and give them a stronger learning routine to encourage prioritizing education over other commitments during the week.
At the K-8 grade levels, teachers are dedicated to Remote Learning Academy classes or traditional classes, Deagle said, but at the high school level, teachers have been responsible for instructing both remote- and hybrid-learning classes.
During hybrid learning, middle school and elementary school students attend their school buildings daily for a half day, but high school students attend class only two days a week, Deagle said. In contrast, high school students in the Remote Learning Academy directly interact with teachers only once per week, she said.
Deagle said the new virtual-learning setup would extend to every high school class, and all high school students would have the expectation that live, online learning would be conducted daily, regardless of the program in which they are enrolled.
Roughly a third of the district's students are being educated online only in the Remote Learning Academy.
The academy's current enrollment is 5,529 students, according to Jill Reinhart, executive director of teaching and learning. Deagle said 5,031 students are enrolled for the second semester of the academic year.
The district has 16,368 students, according to Deagle.
Meanwhile, the other two-thirds of the students had been in hybrid-learning mode for several weeks until Franklin County’s designation as a “purple” Level 4 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System that measures the risk of COVD-19 coronavirus spread in Ohio's 88 counties caused district leaders to move students in grades 6 to 12 back to remote learning effective Nov. 30.
If the initiative begins as scheduled in January, a science class might use the technology differently than a foreign-language class, for example, Schweitzer said.
Lori Marple, K-12 curriculum coordinator, said high school teachers are figuring out ways to use the virtual tools for their classrooms.
One teacher could use the web cam for a demonstration in a science class, she said, while another could use it to foster conversation.
“It’s not a static setup,” Marple said.
Deagle said the pilot program began in October at the Emerald Campus with the district’s International Baccalaureate program. Next, the high school Remote Learning Academy programs joined the pilot, she said.
At present, 84 teachers from the three high schools have been "early adopters," learning and using livestreaming equipment in advance of the January start.
Deagle said all teachers at the Emerald Campus have been using the equipment.
About 1,400 students use the Emerald Campus facility, including those in the Remote Learning Academy. The IB program is similar to Advanced Placement courses, in that students can tackle more challenging courses and take an exam to earn college credit. In addition, the campus' Experiential Learning Academies offer work-based and project-based educational experiences to meet the interests and needs of high school students beyond the traditional classroom.
Deagle said the district was able to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to buy the technology needed for the initiative. The cost was roughly $125,000, she said.