Webinar - Jan 2021
Questions to Ask About your Digital Learning Platform
The New Year brings with it new resolutions for people…but often, these get forgotten within a few weeks. Instead, what if you used the new year as a time of evaluating what’s working and what’s not for your school? Now is a great time for evaluation of how virtual learning is going in your school because summer break will be here before you know it! As the teachers and staff return for the second half of the school year, join us for a discussion on how to best utilize your digital learning platform.
Read the transcript below:
Speakers: Lacey Woolfrey and Marc Blair
All right, we'll go ahead and get started. We'll be recording this session to send out later. I know we've had a few more wanting to join us and we'll make sure we get this out to everyone. Well, thank you for joining us. I think this'll be a great review for you and we're here for any questions that you may have as well. I'll be letting people in late as they join us, so pardon me as I do that. All right. So we'll go ahead and get started here.
Thanks for joining us. I am Lacey Woolfrey with our teacher support team and we've got Marc Blair joining us, he is our sales team lead and really excited to be on today. I know we've had a lot of questions about publishers and how to best work with the publishers so we're excited to address that today.
So what we will be going over today are just some of the questions that a lot of the schools face, we want to answer any of those questions, and also show some of the resources are available that might be able to help as well. So some of the things that you as a school might be facing are just kind of that beginning of the year kind of craziness, as far as trying to set up all the publishers, the platforms, making sure that everything is ready for the teachers, making sure that the teachers know how to use the platforms that you're using and that you're able to get out of it what you can.
And then that inevitable, the person that holds all the keys or knows all the answers when it comes to the books or the ebooks or the software moves on. And you are in kind of a "what to do then", and then even down to just trying to figure out what books to use for the next year. And then just some of the things that if you're already with EdTech Solutions, some of the things that we help you with, and if you have been doing it all on your own, some of the options and the resources that are out there for you.
So Marc is going to take over the screen share and kind of walk through and discuss some of the answers to this. But please feel free to either speak up if you've got questions or type it in the chat, we'll be watching there, but we want to make sure that you get the most out of today. I know your time is valuable and that we can answer all the questions that you have. So Marc, I'll go ahead and turn that screen share over to you.
All right. Thank you very much, Lacey.
Hello. My name is Marc Blair, I am with EdTech Solutions and what I wanted to do is just basically answer these questions and their answers or these questions that do come up quite often when talking to schools that are struggling with digital or their first time using digital.
And so basically what I wanted to do, kind of go through what we do here at EdTech, some of the services that we provide, but also give you additional resources for you as well so that even if you aren't with EdTech right now, you'll have somewhere to go and something to do, and even have a person to ask if you do have some questions, because throughout definitely last year we had schools who weren't even our clients calling us and asking questions on what to do and we were able to at least walk them through and help them out as best as we possibly could.
And so one of the first questions that we see is, is the first month a nightmare setting things up? And for a lot of schools, it is just a nightmare because you have several different platforms all throughout. You could have platforms from Savvas, from McGraw Hill, you can have HMH, you can have Sadlier, you can have TCI, Cengage, a bunch of them. And then as you grow your digital library with curriculum students, as you get more students and more teachers involved with the digital, it's going to become more and more cumbersome. One of the things that we do here at EdTech is connect the digital to your student information system. A lot of times we can provide an SSO and it makes it easier, not only for access, but also the setup, like this with Savvas, we can just click on a couple things and then you are in the great world of Savvas Realize.
And so typically what students do, or not students, but teachers will do is set up their classrooms and they have to go into the SIS themselves, figure out the rosters and set everything up. It is a difficult thing, it is a cumbersome thing. And if you've never done it, it becomes more cumbersome as every single publisher, for whatever reason, likes to change things and likes to do things just a little bit differently to make it difficult. What we've done is just simplify that process and making it easier to access, make it easier to use whether it's a online platform, a digital book or a code-based platform. So it's easier for you, easier for your students.
And so when setting them up, one thing I would recommend is try to make it as cohesive as possible. If you're going to start doing it on your own, don't change the password for every single classroom. I have run into more and more classes or more and more schools that literally have a different password for every single book and every single classroom that a student is in. So even if all the classes are with Realize, they would have a different password for this one and then a different password for this one. Again, that's not the right way, you're doing way too much work. We simplify all that for you.
And of course, with it being the beginning of the year, for whatever reason, publishers like to change things at the beginning of the year so you want to stay on top of any of that information that comes through because they will change things on you, they will do an update. So if you get an email from a publisher, be on top of it, because it could be the difference of you having to redo work or just save your work. So just keep that in mind. With EdTech, we're on top of that always. And we're usually the ones letting our schools know, "Hey, this has changed. This is what you need to do. This is how you back it up." Those types of things.
One of the things that we also run into is, do teachers even know how to use the various platforms? And a lot of times they don't. And it's really kind of frustrating because you literally have publishers investing billions of dollars, maybe not billions, but a lot of money into these platforms for students and teachers to take advantage of. You have schools investing thousands of dollars on these different platforms. And a lot of times, teachers will just basically say, look, just open the book and I'm going to do the rest. It's a lot of money wasted, a lot of time wasted if the teacher doesn't use the platform.
And so one of the things that we tried to do here at EdTech is training everybody who's using our system so that they can be trained on whether it's McGraw Hill, Savvas again, HMH, any of the platforms that they are taking advantage of. We found that when teachers are comfortable using the platforms, then they use them, they take advantage of those bells and whistles, the assignments, the quizzes, any kind of customization that they're allowed to do. And there is a little bit of customization that you can do. It does depend on the platform and it does depend on the different publisher and what they allow you to do.
Sometimes we run into teachers who are very comfortable with what they can and cannot do, and they feel very comfortable with the different platforms. The one difference here is that publishers do like to change things usually around August and September. I don't know why they do that, but they typically do that. And so what happens is that we do still stay on top of it and we help teachers and walk them through with those types of changes so teachers can be like, "Hey, you used to do this. You can't do that anymore. This is the new way to do an assignment. This is a new way to do classes," all those types of things.
Now for you, an easy resource to take advantage of right now would just be on our website, edtechsolutions.com. If you go to EdTech Solutions and you don't want to talk to anybody, you just want the answers on what to do and where to go, you're comfortable watching all videos, just go to EdTech Solutions and you want to go to digital platform support and click on this. It'll take you to basically a list of all the different resources that are free for you that you can just take advantage of whether it's Pearson or Savvas, McGraw Hill, HMH. If you want to learn how to do it and just take advantage of it, it's a one-stop shop for all your different publishers that you may be using to go to their websites.
This makes it a lot easier. I don't know if you've ever been on the Pearson website and try to find where they do their training, but it can be a little bit cumbersome, especially if you use multiple platforms, you can just go here, click, watch, whatever videos you want. And that's free to you. You can just use it as many times as you want. Again, edtechsolutions.com, just go straight there, look up the digital learning platform support under teachers and have fun with it and go with it.
The easier way on our end is definitely to be working with EdTech as we provide the training and the support for teachers on all those different platforms. Something that has come up recently and in multiple schools that I've been working with would be the loss of the administrator, the loss of who's in charge of setting all these things up. I did talk to and I'm working with a school that literally lost their administrator twice. The first tech person quit around August and the second one quit in September and I became their default tech guy. And so it was interesting, and we walked them through, but there are things you can do to back that up to make sure that if somebody does leave, you still have that information available to you. And a lot of it is just writing things down and making sure, look, this is the contact for this company, this is the contact for this publisher, this is how you roster, this is the rosters and the passwords for those different different classes.
If it's one person doing all of it, again, simplifying the process and making it the same password everywhere definitely helps but if somebody leaves and nothing is written down, you're just going to spend literally weeks on customer service support, trying to figure things out and trying to log in because a lot of times, if one person was in charge of the password and nobody knew that password, it's going to be quite cumbersome, especially when you're talking about hundreds of students with different platforms, different publishers.
So literally make sure everything's backed up. If you're the teacher and you say no, it's okay, it's okay, I would insist that you get a copy of that spreadsheet from whoever set that up, just so you have it because it does happen. Again, I talked to plenty of and plenty of administrators who are saying, "How do I do this? Where do I go? What's the password?" And I'm wondering why didn't you anyone write this down? So make sure you have those copies. Even as a teacher, you might never look at it, but it's good to have, especially if somebody leaves last minute, which seems to be a lot this last year.
Something else that we are doing mainly right now, we are looking for books, looking for new curriculum. And a lot of people are saying, "What books should I use? What books are good?" You might ask around, you might lean on your publisher reps. Obviously the publisher rep is going to plug their own publisher. That is their job, of course. And so there's different things that you can do to just kind of research it.
One thing that a lot of people don't take advantage of with EdTech and they probably should is just leaning on their regional relationship general manager here and asking, because since we work with schools all across the country, we know what East Coast schools use, the Southwest schools use, West Coast, we know the differences. We can tell you this school likes this publisher because... We can also tell you this one is difficult because..., and just kind of walk you through it. It is a great resource because we don't have any skin in the game. I personally don't care if you purchase Cengage versus Savvas versus McGraw Hill, we just want to support you and give you that information as best as we possibly can. And we can even connect you with some of our schools when you're working with us obviously, and connect you with them and say, "Hey, ask them questions about their ConnectED or how they do their LMS with their EdTech Solutions and how it all connects and does it work well?"
So we can do those types of things and connect teachers and just ask the students, or not students, but ask the teachers and the administrators what they think of various things so that you can get the right information for you. And so if you are exploring it and you're with us, ask your RGM, ask them, say, "Hey, look, we're looking at changing biology, we are looking to change history, we want it to be online." Devices do matter in these type of situations because an iPad work different from a Chromebook, which works different from a laptop. So all that is is important to keep in mind, especially when choosing curriculum, because we have found that for some curriculum definitely works really good on a laptop, but if all your students are using an iPad, it doesn't matter because a lot of the publisher iPad apps are strictly just the book. So you want to keep that in mind and make sure you understand which devices and what the apps looked like for those devices definitely.
But again, when working with EdTech, you can simply ask us, we'll give you that information, we'll research that information for you. And of course, ask around with the different schools that we work with to help you. One of the things that people often ask, things that I ask is, are you considering EdTech? If you are considering an EdTech, please reach out and we'll be happy to help you out and see kind of our what you are doing and how we can help you. There are different aspects with EdTech that you can take advantage of.
There's definitely the implementation aspect that we discussed, where you have these external eBooks with the different platforms. It is one of the reasons a lot of people come over to us is because not only do we have the SSO with a lot of different publishers, but we also have a set all of them up. So whether it's McGraw Hill, Pearson, we set them up so that the teachers are with the right students and of course that connection to your student information system as well. So it works cohesively and we do all the hard work on the background. So it just basically works for your students so it's a lot easier and simpler.
Another reason people come over to us is for the training, because not only will we set everything up, but we can train you again on any one of these platforms. So you can call in and get that training as soon as you sign up with us. And then of course we have our levels of support, which make it 10 times easier for you as a potential customer, the parents, students. Parents and students have their own level of support that they can call in. Primarily, they're asking things like, "What's my password?" And, "Where do I go to access my book?"
We have a level for teachers where they can call in, ask questions and get answers about the different platforms that they're using. And of course, we have a level in a dedicated RGM for every one of our schools. So you have one point of contact for the larger issues at hand for you. So if there's something going on with all of your Savvas products or all of your HMH products or a specific classroom, you have one person you can call in, take care of it for you and work with you to make sure it gets resolved.
Another reason people come over to us is because we actually have our own reader. We work with so many different publishers, we have a lot of their files directly on our Shelfit reader where you can access it in different ways and even customize it in different ways. And so a lot of the publishers, and again, since there are so many publishers that we work with, I don't know which ones you're obviously working with, but a lot of times we can provide that ebook directly on our Shelfit reader, just for you and for your classes. And it makes it easier because we can switch the books out pretty quickly.
We do have bells and whistles within the reader like panning, you can write on it, erase it, do a bookmark, take notes. We do have what's called overlays where literally a teacher can put in text, links, YouTube, images, their own video, audio, their own attachments and quizzes directly in the book for the use of students. They do have that ability to actually customize that book down to a single student. They can make individual learning experiences for every single one of their students in the classroom. Not many people have ever actually done that. Most people just do it for students who need to be caught up or may need a little bit extra help.
And one of the main features of our reader is our text to speech, talked to a school the other day about they had a student that learned a little bit differently in wanting to know how they could take advantage of a text to speech type app, or if they needed a special app with our reader. And it was great just to be like, "Look, all you have to do is highlight the words and hit read text and it'll be read to them. They can hit control A, have it all taken care of, and they can learn as what best fits for them." And so there are different things that you can take advantage of with our reader.
Some schools love the fact that we have our own reader and they just want books that are on our reader base because it's just simple, easy and dedicated. Some have platforms, some use our EdTech digital readers, some have their own print. One of the things if you are considering working with EdTech, and one of the things that we do is we work with you to build a store or build the books around what's best for you and your school.
And then the last reason people come over to us would definitely be because we do have an online bookstore that we can do both the print and the digital. And so one of the things that we do is when we connect to your student information system, the store would also be connected to the student information system. So when a student logs in, they don't actually have to find their books, their books are just right there. Most, if not all the digital books would be in required course materials. We do that because we're doing all the setup. I know other vendors will actually send schools and students or parents, whoever's purchasing two different websites everywhere and that just makes it more confusing because then at one point, somebody has to put all those licenses together to be under the classroom and to work with the teacher. We want to do that. And we do that. And the one thing that makes this easier is by doing the required course materials.
But the other thing that we do is we offer the print for those who want print. We know it's not going away. Our print is a direct connection over to the wonderful world of Amazon. We used to have a warehouse, however, what we found is that parents and students would just check our pricing against Amazon anyways, and nine times out of 10, they could get free shipping anytime they want because of their Prime account. And they would just purchase it from Amazon. So rather than fight it, we just basically made sure that they get the right book, they can get it from Amazon and so our primary core, our I guess secret sauce I think is mainly in the digital area where we do all the setup, the training and support for all the different publishers and try to bring it all together into one place just for you.
And I wanted to make sure I left a little bit of time for questions because I know everyone's times valuable and I didn't want to... And I knew I talked probably way too fast so I apologize. But does anyone have any questions or we'll just leave it up to questions right now should be able to see. Lacey, do you see anything? I don't know.
We had one question come through with the chat about the reader app. The reader works amazingly well on a browser. Depending on the book, our app is getting a facelift, but if there's a specific book you've got questions about, we can certainly follow up after with that. And then if there's anything else anyone wants to see on Marc's screen either go ahead and speak up, we don't want you to be shy, but if you feel more comfortable typing it in the chat, that is fine too. And then I'll switch back.
I do have a question. This is Michelle.
Regarding the single sign on, could you just please clarify how that works? Is EdTech its own SSO or are you using, I see the name Savvas popping up about, just if you could please explain that to me?
So Savvas is Pearson. They changed their name and I just use them interchangeably because I'm not comfortable saying their name to be perfectly honest. So I've used the same Pearson for the last four years then they just changed their name. But the single sign on can be done, we have a few different ways, we can do a Google and LDAP, we do have single sign on through some well, mainly Blackbaud information system. If there's a specific system for your school, send us an email and then we can see how we can set that up.
What are some that you find to be most popular or effective for schools you work with?
Like as a single sign-on?
Oh, Blackbaud and Google are the best.
I'm a big fan of Blackbaud. That's me.
And then so if one has the Blackbaud single sign on, all the books, whether they're external or directly through EdTech, the student uses that single sign-on.
Yeah. So Blackbaud is a student information system, just to be clear, it's not a single sign on app, like a Google, but when they sign into either Google or through Blackbaud, then they log into our Shelfit and then what ends up happening is anything on our shelf that they can have access to and anything that we have a direct connection to the external ebooks, like the Savvas or the McGraw Hills of the world, they would automatically just go in. They wouldn't have to re-enter their credentials, but not all publishers do we have a single sign on with, just to be clear.
Okay. So for example, our SIS is called Fax. So you are logged into our Fax system, obviously, because that's how you push our books to our students. Do our students go through Fax as an SSO?
Not at this point. We are actually currently building that out with them.
Okay. So in the future, we should have a smoother connection with our bookshelves you're working on this with Fax?
Okay. Thank you.
Yeah. And Michelle, I'll have your account manager follow up with you afterwards, too. So if you've got specific questions, she'll be able to give you a better idea too.
Great, I'd like to coordinate that with our tech guy. So thank you very much.
Of course, absolutely. Great questions. All right. I'll switch back to the topics here. So if anyone does have any questions they didn't get a chance to ask about anything we talked about here or anything else that pops up, we'll be sending this webinar out as a recording so you'll have this and then we'll send out some additional resources. So please feel free to reach out to us if you do have questions, we want to make sure that we're a resource for you to help. I know there's a lot that goes into books and getting the most out of your books. And so we're here to be that resource for you. So I've put our website up there. Again, you can respond to the follow-up email that comes out after, but I do really appreciate your time and you joining us today. It's been a pleasure. We appreciate the great questions. Marc, thank you for your time and for joining us and we're here to help. I hope you have a great rest of your day.
Thank you guys.
Take care, everybody.