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Accelerating the Transition to eLearning

Friday, May 15, 2020

Accelerating the Transition to eLearning

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to move to eLearning, many schools around the country and the world struggled to make this shift. In some cases, districts reduced instructional time, while in others it led to parent, student, and teacher frustration.

Like their colleagues from across the country, teachers and leaders from ACE’s Higher-Powered Learning (HPL) Program in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis have faced this new reality. Unlike a lot of their peers, these five Catholic schools transitioned rather smoothly to eLearning, thanks in large part to their experience with blended learning principles and platforms. 

When the HPL team asked for feedback in terms of how the teachers’ and leaders’ experiences of blended learning affected their transition to eLearning, the team was pleasantly surprised to get a flood of positive emails from program participants. At a time when many teachers are feeling overwhelmed, it was inspiring to see how HPL teachers and leaders point to these three aspects of the HPL program that allowed them to succeed: 

  1. Access to devices and fluency with adaptive computer programs that had already been introduced in classrooms during the school year. 
  2. Teachers had already been through a process that allowed them to thoughtfully select software that aligned to their students’ needs and their curricular goals. 
  3. HPL teachers maximize small group instruction and create strong routines that encourage student agency and independence when students are working on their own. This has translated well into the self-pacing required for eLearning. 

But these experiences are probably best described by the teachers and leaders themselves:

Access and Fluency

I'm not trying to oversell, but I might possibly have quit if I had to do online learning without the blended learning background. Much of it is practical - our students each have a Chromebook and a set of headphones and they all know how to log onto the computer and the programs (starting at kindergarten). 

- Jessi Weakley, Middle School Teacher - St. John Paul II
Catholic Preparatory School

I am SO incredibly grateful that we have our adaptive programs and devices. Being that we already had those resources in place, we were able to quickly decide as a school how to divvy up devices to each family. It was shocking how much we were able to accomplish in just a 48-hour window!

- Megan Thorpe, 2nd Grade Teacher - Nativity of Mary School

Blended learning has made the transition to distance learning much easier. Our students in grades K-8 were already using technology within their normal learning environment. Therefore, we did not have to deal with a lot of the logistics of technology (logging in, getting passwords, using software, etc.) and were able to dive right into our learning. 

- Ryan Pajak, Principal - Nativity of Mary School

Thoughtfully Selected Software

Our school’s experience with blended learning enabled us to provide the necessary technology to our families, which has made delivering content easier for our teachers. Blended learning has made me more confident as a teacher because I know what I need to teach and how my students typically respond to various tasks. It has also been beneficial to have a program like iReady immediately available for our students so we can meet their needs while away from school and completing distance learning lessons. 

- Amanda Shultz, 4th Grade Teacher - Nativity of Mary School

After hearing we were moving to distance learning, my first thought was 'Thank God we have blended learning.” Because of my experience with blended learning, I am comfortable receiving information from learning programs about my students, interpreting that data, and adjusting my teaching accordingly. I truly feel the Higher-Powered Learning program has given us everything we needed to adjust to this new style of teaching and learning. 

- Brigid Krause, Elementary Teacher - Community of Saints

It's been wonderful that so many publishers/software companies have offered free subscriptions for the remainder of the school year. However, there are far too many to look deeply into all of them. Our partnership with HPL has helped me to seek out and grab quality resources. We have been exposed to amazing programs, which we know have been vetted. 

- Jessi Weakley, Middle School Teacher - St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School

As a team, we've remarked about the relative ease in moving forward because of our comfort level and experience with blended learning. Scholars are comfortable learning through an online delivery process. Our teachers read diagnostic reports and respond by differentiating assignments to target specific skill development areas. Also, our experience with our blended-learning programs allowed us to easily add supplemental platforms for our scholars.

- Lisa Simon, Director of Instructional Support - Ascension Catholic Academy

Student Agency and Independence

Each day of the school year our students spent some time logging onto a program independently. Most often, this happened while the teacher was working with other small groups. This simple practice has helped all of our students with the independent aspect of online learning. All of our students have been taught alternative methods of finding help when the teacher isn't available, which is very helpful right now. 

- Jessi Weakley, Middle School Teacher - St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School

Blended learning was instrumental in our transition to distance learning! When we first announced the move to eLearning, students were immediately able to log into Imagine Math, iReady, or Lexia and continue their pathway! Students can navigate Chromebooks due to the technology being in their hands from day 1 of the school year.

- Kari Staples, Principal - St. Alphonsus Catholic School

In short, having been a blended learning classroom for the last two years has been really helpful in getting my online class up and running during this pandemic. I found the transition to distance learning was a little easier because my scholars were using the sites and technology when we were in the classroom.  

- Bridget Kirby Younce, 3rd Grade Teacher - Ascension Catholic School

The Higher-Powered Learning Program has been key to helping us with distance learning. We are 100 percent connected with our JPII kiddos and the parents have been incredibly impressed with how independent their children have been on the platforms.

- Tricia Menzhuber, Principal - St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School

No one knows for certain when our schools will return to traditional, in-person classes, but it’s apparent from the testimony of these educators that the investments their Catholic schools have made in blended-learning programs and principles are having a tremendous impact on the students and families they serve in this time of distance learning. 

Interested in learning more about blended and distance learning? Check out our K-8 eLearning Guide for Higher-Powered Learning’s suggestions for an engaging eLearning classroom. You can also refer to our free Resource Guide with brief descriptions of free programs and resources to support your eLearning needs. 

We are also available to answer any questions and provide any support you may need. Reach out to us at with any additions, suggestions, or questions you may have!