How Conseil Scolaire Viamonde enabled remote learning for all students in 2-weeks
The Conseil Scolaire Viamonde (CSV) is a public-secular French school board operating in South-Eastern Ontario. Covering 68,000 km2, the CSV is responsible for 41 elementary schools and 15 secondary schools with a combined student population of more than 13,000 and 2,500 teachers and support staff.
On March 12, 2020, the Ontario government announced a shut down of all schools in the province that was initially to last two weeks following March break due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The province announced a program that required school districts to prepare a plan to deliver remote learning by April 6—preceded by a brief period of preparation for students and teachers. This program was deemed essential to enable students to complete their academic year safely.
This meant that, like all other schools in Ontario, the CSV had two weeks to build, equip, and launch a remote learning program for every student in the district. This would be a Herculean task under a generous timeframe and seemingly impossible to complete; however, unlike other schools, the CSV had already built a foundation and was ready for the challenge.
The first step was to survey every household in the district. This quickly told the CSV that 1,600 students did not have access to a computer at home through which they could access instruction. Some educators, support staff, and librarians did not have laptops they could use at home either. Many worked from workstations on their desks.
The mission to completely revamp the way the CSV delivered education fell to a multifaceted team of administrators and educators that worked collaboratively on a solution for the entire school board.
The logical starting point in building the foundation for successful remote learning would be to ensure the process was secure on all fronts. Fortunately, Compugen had worked with the CSV to address the security environment a year earlier.
“We were brought in to evaluate the protection of their network and server infrastructure,” Dan Po explained. “We implemented some upgrades, and through this process, we were able to validate that their network infrastructure, specifically ensuring the CSV’s Microsoft 365 environment was secure. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the bedrock on which the remote learning initiative was constructed.”
The second step was to implement Microsoft Teams across the whole school board as their remote learning solution. To assist teachers in the transition to teaching using Microsoft Teams, the CSV provided both live and recorded online training sessions to teach remotely. Because they started the process early, the CSV was able to pivot and shift to remote learning quickly and easily.
On April 6, 2020, despite the nearly impossible deadline, the CSV began delivering remote learning to every student in their homes. The hard work and technical expertise put in place months earlier resulted in classes resuming virtually immediately - glitch-free with no security issues reported.
Together the CSV and Compugen built a system that is modern, agile, and secure. This new model has created the foundation for the modern ‘hybrid’ learning system that allows for both classroom and remote learning to occur simultaneously.
From all perspectives, it appears this hybrid model can be successful for as long as it is required. Maher Constantine teaches math at Ecole Secondaire Norval Morrisseau in Richmond Hill. He was initially trepidatious about teaching math curriculum online, but he soon found the new system offered all he needed and more. “I have an education program on my iPad that allows me to record videos - simultaneously – showing me using a virtual whiteboard and records my voice as I go through the lesson. It actually adds something I don’t have in my live classroom. The whiteboard is a great addition, and it is really nice to have this feature that I can use through Microsoft Teams.”
To ensure teachers and students could stay connected, Compugen enlisted the help of HPE and Aruba to ensure the CSV’s networking and infrastructure were ready for a remote learning environment. Compugen worked with HPE and Aruba to provide a solution that allowed the CSV to upgrade the schools’ access points and wireless networks, thus keeping staff and students safe and their data secure. The CSV’s future thinking now ensures their hybrid instruction model can handle the flexibility required for remote or in-person learning.
Faced with a massive task in a tight timeframe, Compugen and the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde worked together to save the student’s school year.
That focused effort proved not only to be an effective fix for the short-term crisis but also serves as the bedrock for the new hybrid learning environment, which we are coming to know as ‘the new normal.’ Because of the flexibility, ingenuity, and expertise displayed by a team working under nearly impossible deadlines, a lasting education framework stands for months and possibly years to come.