Virtual Learning Success!

Thanks to preplanning and an established track record of instructional technology integration, Lincoln Lutheran students were able to return to learning in a new, online format after missing only 3 days due to impacts from Covid-19.

Transition to Virtual Learning

The conversations about “what if” started in mid-February. An initial framework and plan was developed in early March. Web-based resources were assessed for best fit “just in case.” Webcams were purchased and sat in a box in case nothing happened and they needed to be returned.

On Saturday, March 14 the conversation shifted from “what if” to “how quickly can we get this up and running.” Principal Matt Heibel shared, “We were able to shift to virtual instruction because we had a plan in place for how we hoped to do it, and an atmosphere was already in place where teachers were willing and had the skills to integrate new technology into teaching quickly.” Standardized use of technology throughout the school was a key factor. “Many schools may have similar technology, or might have a learning management system, or both, but teachers aren't always uniformly required to use them which created delays for many schools to deploy virtual learning.”

By Sunday night March 15, Technology Coordinator Lloyd Sommerer had the Lincoln Lutheran educational community set up with Zoom accounts allowing for seamless integration with the school’s Learning Management System - Canvas. Staff gathered on Monday morning to train in the best use of Zoom for education. After an additional day of planning and preparation, the school spent Wednesday performing a trial run, helping students to log-in and navigate their first experience in Zoom.

By Thursday, it was back to learning, this time in a virtual classroom. The plan was simple: maintain a similar schedule to regular school, but shorten the meeting times to keep students and teachers fresh. The “new normal” experience included four 60 minutes classes each day with each of a students 8 classes meeting every other day (Alternating Block Schedule). There were also teacher office hours to handle questions outside of class, a time for daily devotions and a virtual all-school chapel each week.

After surveying parents and students, and collecting feedback from the teachers, additional tweaks were made to the schedule and everyone adjusted to their new normal for the remainder of the 4th quarter.

Characteristics of Virtual Learning at Lincoln Lutheran

  • Students only missed 3 days of instruction. The average number of days in Nebraska was over 10.
  • Because of limitations, many schools sent physical or electronic packets home and then had teachers available if students wanted to contact them. Lincoln Lutheran students came to class everyday, learned new material, practiced that material and got feedback from a teacher for a more robust online learning experience.
  • Because students were still learning new material, grading continued normally. This kept students engaged and motivated.
  • An established culture of the uniform use of instructional technology was key. Teachers had the experience, training and willingness to quickly shift gears to a new platform of learning in just 3 days.
  • A quick response to the rapidly changing situation in early March allowed for the purchase of webcams and Zoom accounts for teachers before it became almost impossible to do so.
  • A lot of research was done in advance and there was a vision of what it might look like before the shift occurred. After the first day of training for teachers the plan was quickly adjusted based on feedback. From there we adapted as needed.
  • On-going adjustments were made based on the feedback from parents and students. In addition to asking parents and students what was going well and what could be improved in general, every teacher received feedback from students on what was going well and what could be done better in each class, and they adjusted.
  • Online learning takes a lot out of students and teachers. The final four weeks of schools meant for a 4-day school week to keep students and staff fresh.
  • Attendance was almost perfect. Students want to learn. They want to see their friends. They want things to be as "normal" as possible.
  • Parents stated often that having a daily schedule in place for their students was very valuable.
  • Not a single teacher missed a day of school during virtual learning because of illness.

Planning for the 2020-2021 School Year

Planning is now fully underway for August. Student learning, safety and seamless education is at the forefront of preparations. Understanding there will likely be rules about capacity, space, student and staff safety as well as the potential need for students to home quarantine, Lincoln Lutheran is working to put the technology in place to provide synchronous learning no matter what rules are in place come August.

The school plans to have instructional cameras deployed in every classroom so it can offer the same learning experience to students whether they can meet in person or have to learn from home. No matter the “what if” there is a willingness to adjust and adapt to make sure the students have the best experience possible.

Virtual Learning Schedule

7th Grade - 12th Grade 6th Grade
Faculty Devotion (Thur) 8:15 - 8:30 8:15 - 8:30
Office Hours (15 min)
8:30 - 8:45 8:30 - 8:45
Morning Devotions
8:45 - 8:50 8:45 - 8:50
Block 1/5 (60 min) 9:00 - 10:00 Religion/Reading 9:00-9:27
Reading/Religion 9:33-10:00
Morning Break (10 min) 10:00 - 10:10 10:00 - 10:10
Block 2/6 (60 min) 10:10 - 11:10 10:10 - 11:10
Lunch (60 min) 11:10 - 12:10 11:10 - 12:10
Block 3/7 (60 min) 12:10 - 1:10 12:10 - 1:10
Afternoon Break (10 min)
Block 4/8 (60 min) 1:20 - 2:20 1:20 - 2:20
Office Hours (15 min)
2:30 - 2:45 2:30 - 2:45
Chapel (Wednesdays)
2:30 - 2:45 (office hours after) 2:30 - 2:45 (office hours after)

Zoom Done Right

By using the a paid Zoom Education account, Lincoln Lutheran was able to avoid all of the problems that other schools faced. From day one, only people with accounts provided by Lincoln Lutheran could access Zoom classrooms without special permission from our teachers. And our teachers had access to all of Zooms features, not just the free features. 

Our students could use their Zoom accounts for any of the following:We will be using Zoom for all online classes., but here are other things you can do with your Zoom account, including:

  • Meeting with group members for projects and assignments
  • Working on homework with classmates
  • Tutoring someone who needs help
  • Having a watch party with classmates
  • Hosting a meeting for a club or organization

And the students knew that all of their Zoom meetings were logged, just in case.