Learning platforms - evidence of impact

The mistake that most people have made so far is to expect schools to adopt and embed use of learning platforms quickly. What is actually happening is a slow process that will take a decade or more, of schools starting to use the digital environment.

The Institute of Education/Becta research, Autumn 2009. This is the first formally produced research showing where primary and secondary schools are gaining significant benefits from using platforms. While the benefits are no doubt real and possible, this study suffers from being a small sample of ‘the usual suspects’ - though the schools are not named it is easy to guess they are those who have superb leadership that we have heard so much about. Which makes it too easy for ‘ordinary’ schools to not believe they can follow in their steps. Do look at the associated videos, which feature another 12 schools which broadens the sample. The most significant point the report makes is the 12 areas of benefit they identify, starting on page 18 of the report. There are many schools around the country that are beginning to get strong impact in several of these areas, depending on which aspects they have prioritised to develop first (for example the schools in the Frog Impact Study, and others using other systems) .

The Frog impact study, Autumn 2009/Spring 2010. A key reason this study was done was to get beyond the ‘usual suspects’ problem. Every company can roll-out case studies of schools stating their products are wonderful, but when lots of very different schools are achieving excellent improvements it is time to take notice. The 45 secondary schools in this study report significant improvements that they have achieved since installing their Frog platform. This study finds benefits gained that are very similar to those found in the Institute of Education study. It also shows newly developing areas of benefit where the school expect to see improvements, which reinforces the point that the schools are on a journey. The secondary schools using the Frog platform share their developing insights on platform use through an online community and an annual conference and it is well worth while looking at the white papers, case studies and conference presentations from the schools.

ICT Register schools using learning platforms. Scroll down to the videos on this link. Each (approx 3 minute) video has a number of senior school leaders making short statements about the various issues associated with implementing a learning platform. This is not evidence in the sense of research studies, these are professional statements from highly respected educators, based on all that they have seen and experienced in developing their school’s platform use so far. When they say that their platforms have been critical to improving pupil engagement and learning, they can only be believed. The challenge to other educators is whether they could achieve similar improvements in other ways or whether they must admit that effective use of online platforms is essential to achieve this level of improvement.

The Frog White Paper, Dec 2006. This study of imperatives, drivers and challenges is included here because the verbatim comments from the senior leaders interviewed illustrate an important point - it is very hard to see beyond the turning point of implementing an online platform used by all in the school. You will note various expressions of surprise such as (paraphrased) ‘it’s going a lot faster than we expected’ and ‘things we thought would be hard proved easy, but other things we didn’t expect suddenly hit us and proved a challenge’. I believe this is because work processes and attitudes change for the better in unpredictable ways.

The Capita Learnwise white paper, 2005. This is an older report but contains several things of note. The title ‘No hiding place from improvement’ came from a comment by Maggie Love at Frome Community College and reflects the way online platforms make what teachers and pupils do much more visible and explicit. Though this is from 5 years ago, schools were already seeing many of the benefits as researched in 2009 by the Inst of Ed. Note also early thoughts on learning metrics. But probably most significant is the finding about the necessity for secondary schools to take a whole-school approach. Out of the eight schools studied, four were taking a whole-school approach and were succeeding well with platform adoption. In the other four schools use was very patchy because there wasn’t the top-level commitment that all should use the platform.

More links to Teachers and school leaders talking about learning platforms. Because the key impact of ICT in education generally, and use of learning platforms particularly, is change in peoples’ attitudes and approaches, reading case studies and looking at examples only gives you half the picture. You need to understand what happened to get people to their changed practices, and the only way to do that is to listen to teachers, school leaders and pupils who have been through the experience.