contributing subject-matter experts (SMEs)
Learning tracks personalized to new teachers' needs
Saved each year through virtual and remote training
Founded in 1998, IDEA Public Schools has grown from a small school with 150 students in Texas to be the fastest-growing network of tuition-free, Pre-K-12 public charter schools in the United States.
Now active in four states and 11 different regions with over 11,000 staff, IDEA Public Schools service over 77,000 students predominantly made up of low-income seniors who are first-generation college students.
As Richel Raich-Cantu, Director of On-Demand Training, explains, IDEA Public Schools has an ambitious goal. “Our number one mission is that 100% of students go to college after they graduate from IDEA Public Schools,” she says. But to do that, Richel first needs to welcome new teachers with the right learning support.
Read on to hear how IDEA Public Schools helps new teachers learn in the flow of work through peer-driven content with 360Learning.
As Richel explains, the geographical diversity of growing into four states and 11 regions gives IDEA Public Schools a huge source of strength, but it also creates a complex learning environment.
"It's been a learning curve figuring out how we leverage that diversity all in service of the students that we support.”
Specifically, IDEA needs to recognize and reflect localized learning needs such as language preferences and cultural norms, as well as seeing the student experience through a customer lens.
To achieve this, their national professional development team, in partnership with a lot of teams across IDEA operations–human resources and academic services–partner together alongside their regional teams to ensure that they are providing tailored training that meets the needs of their community.
As Richel explains, the key to managing that complex and diverse learning environment and achieving the goal of 100% of students going to college all starts with giving every new teacher the best possible start. This comes down to three key steps.
“Every year we onboard between 1,000 and 1,300 new teachers and co-teachers, and that takes a lot to get those folks up to speed across all of our different regions. That’s why our talent development team really focuses on leveraging the 70/20/10 model.”
Richel and her team uses 360Learning to prepare their teachers so they can practice learning content and then deliver it in the classroom.
"One thing we worked really hard to do was to develop examples that match our local communities,” says Richel. “But exemplar teaching and exemplar student work looks different in all of our communities. That’s why we've been expanding these exemplars and ensuring that they reflect all of our communities and meet their needs.”
Richel and her team have also driven the concept of peers developing the learning for teachers to ensure that subject-matter experts can provide training directly to teachers, especially as IDEA Public Schools has grown.
“This has been incredibly important for us,” explains Richel. “For example, in 2019, which is the last time we did this new teacher training at the beginning of the year in person, we only had 12 different tracks that teachers would join based on what content they taught.”
However, this summer, Richel and the team are planning to have 94 unique tracks of the different types of content and curriculum that teachers need. “So, to be able to manage that type of diverse training and tracks for folks takes a lot more planning with the subject-matter experts that are developing those materials.”
So, given those challenges, why was 360Learning such a good fit for IDEA Public Schools in supporting new teachers to make the right impact?
As Richel explains, IDEA Public Schools includes around 11,000 staff members now, but even when they started using 360Learning, they were about 8,500–and that was two-and-a-half years ago.
“Just the fact that we are growing so rapidly is one of the biggest reasons that we chose 360Learning, because it is a tool that’s very easy to use at that capacity.”
“Now, we have almost 200 subject-matter experts across the district, both in content and curriculum areas. In some of the operational support that we provide, it’s really important to have a tool that all of those folks can be using.”
Richel and her team found that they were seeing fewer people delivering training via their old LMS platform, and they found that it was hard to track learning outcomes and the different places where compliance requirements were.
As Richel explains, a focus on collaborative learning helped them design bite-sized, peer-driven learning that was deliverable across different modalities.
In their Summer Professional Development Program, IDEA Public Schools has 1,200 to 1,500 new teachers who get trained at once, and now they can see who has completed training and how well people are mastering the content they are teaching.
“The other game-changer,” Richel says, “is that now mid-year and late-year hires can still take the training. So it used to be if you got hired after August 1, you don't get this training; you lose that 10% on the 70/20/10 model.”
“Now, our teachers can access that new teacher training both for culture and content at any time. So we built into onboarding plans and encouraged managers of teachers to send their teachers to our platform 360Learning to get that training.”
At IDEA Public Schools, Richel explains, giving new teachers the best possible start through workflow learning follows these three key phases.
1. Internal subject-matter experts create courses: Richel and her team train up the subject-matter experts on the platform and help them to create courses.
2. Internal co-authors collaborate on courses: Next, subject-matter experts get feedback from Richel’s team who are professional development experts who bring in the lens of what is best for adult learning, and how to engage with adult learners.
3. New teachers learn in the flow of work and ask questions: because it is a collaborative platform even for learners, subject-matter experts can continue updating the content and respond to people completing the content to ensure they are being responsive to the teachers who are on the ground with the students.
As Richel explains, it is first helpful to look at what they hoped to achieve through their partnership with 360Learning, entering the collaboration with the following set of goals:
• Achieving great personalization and customization: As Richel explains, without 360Learning, they could not have gone from 12 content tracks to 94 content tracks if they didn’t have this type of platform where they could differentiate based on what specific teachers need.
• Increasing performance for new teachers: Richel and her team saw an increase in performance for new teachers in the first two years of doing their New Teacher Institute training on ‘Roadmaps’–an exciting shift for them.
• Driving higher rates of job satisfaction and retention: “We especially saw increased performance, higher job satisfaction, and retention for teachers who are hired late or in the middle of the year,” says Richel.
• Building a truly engaging digital learning experience: As Richel explains, 360Learning is a much more engaging digital learning experience, and people are really excited about using and designing content in 360Learning.
• Leveraging internal subject-matter expert knowledge and creating a knowledge base: What is also exciting for Richel and her team is seeing internal subject-matter experts blossom in their ability to create knowledge and make it available to folks at all times.
And as far as the outcomes themselves, Richel says that they have been thrilled so far.
As Richel explains, using 360Learning has made a huge impact on learning and development at IDEA. These included three specific areas where they saw measurable results.
The real-time access to training allows learners to get training anytime, which frees up the time for those who typically would facilitate this training over and over.
“It's also really helpful for our principals to be able to focus on priorities,” explains Richel. “It's really hard to offer training during the regular school day because our principals and campus leaders are so busy.”
Having a line of sight into the purpose behind the training, as Richel explains, has made a really big impact on aligning training for different parts of the organization, which in turn allows teachers and leaders to get targeted training while being able to focus on priorities.
When IDEA Public Schools moved all of their training from having very large new teacher trainings to virtual training in 2020, and in that summer alone, they saved almost half a billion dollars.
“And now we've kept some things remote,” Richel says, “because we've seen how much savings there can be and that quality isn't sacrificed in a lot of cases to move things virtually, especially if you prepare subject-matter experts to be able to deliver something that's high quality.”
Looking ahead, Richel and her team are really excited about a proposal to train campus leaders in advance through what they are calling ‘pre-game training’.
“Historically, we've brought all of our campus leaders together in the middle of the school year to do something called halftime,” she explains. “You pick the sessions that you want to go to, and it's acted as a way for folks to stop, take stock and figure out: what do I need to adjust to ensure students are meeting outcomes by the end of the school year?”
In December, they moved halftime to a virtual setting which went so well that they are offering a counterpart for the first time this summer called ‘pre-game’. In pre-game, subject-matter experts will be offering 50 sessions and people can choose which sessions they wish to attend such as learning about how to onboard new staff.
“It's a choose-your-own-adventure, and it's all happening virtually thanks to 360 learning and the way in which folks can select these sessions in classroom slots,” says Richel.
Following Richel’s journey when switching to peer-driven workflow learning, she has some valuable tips for L&D leaders everywhere to keep in mind when making the switch.
1. Don’t try to just ‘flip the switch’: shifting to peer-driven bite-sized learning takes time, and you need to plan out your learner road-mapping far in advance and ensure a predictable and easy experience.
2. Always keep your end goal in mind: What’s the ideal learner experience? And what support do they need to perform at their best? For Richel and her team, that meant breaking learning resources down into bite-sized content people can complete at their convenience, and using their internal peer expertise to make this content as relevant and impactful as possible.
3. Channel enthusiasm in the right direction: For example, when IDEA Public Schools went from 0-60 on peer-driven content during COVID-19, as Richel explains, they made everyone authors and then had to pump the brakes when it got a little out of hand. Standardizing everything brought things back under control.
4. Keep an eye on quality and consistency: You need a clear vision before you start, and it is important to set criteria for success and standards for subject-matter expert-created content.
5. Put the right content gatekeeping in place: For Richel and her team this included a set of criteria for successful content design, providing annual training for subject-matter experts, and some technical rules for subject-matter expert content roadmaps.