The Launch Response: Creating Content Offerings
When schools closed as a result of COVID-19 last spring, Launch offered free course content to partners. Now districts can use Launch content with their own teacher of record every semester.
March 2020 was a month that educators will never forget. One minute, the nearly 25,000 learners at Springfield Public Schools were taking off for spring break. A few days later, these students learned they wouldn’t be returning the next week. And it wasn’t much later when they learned they wouldn’t return for the remainder of the year. Schools statewide found themselves in similar situations, as Governor Parsons announced temporary and permanent school closures in March and April 2020.
LENDING A HAND
As a virtual course provider based at Springfield Public Schools, Launch knew it was our time to practice what we preach. A strength of Launch is working together with our partner districts—of which we had 267 at the time—to do what is best for Missouri students. We set out to see what that looked like in that time where there was such dire need. Launch Director Dr. Nichole Lemmon worked with Springfield Public Schools superintendent Dr. John Jungmann and other key district officials to formulate an immediate plan. It was decided that Launch would develop and offer a selection of content courses to our partner districts for free for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.
FROM IDEA TO REALITY
Launch’s digital developers immediately got to work editing and adapting our content courses—this took a bit of work, as content courses are designed to utilize Launch content with a district’s teacher of record. The developers also created online learning modules on how to teach Launch classes in Canvas, our Learning Management System. The Launch creative team developed guides and tutorials filled with advice and best practices for teachers, and we began sharing.
While the completion of the spring 2020 semester resulted in many lessons learned, it became obvious that there was a definite need for Launch’s content offerings. “The benefit of content catalog courses is that the district gets to provide the teacher,” says Dr. Meghan Roe, Launch’s Coordinator of Course Development. “It’s the same idea as when a house is turn-key ready. Everything is there and ready to go!” The Launch team used summer 2020 to further develop and adapt the content catalog, and we began offering it as a service in fall 2020.
CONTENT CATALOG IN ACTION
As the Branson School District entered the fall semester with more than 800 online learners, district leaders decided to purchase Launch content to deliver quality online curriculum with their own teachers of record.
Launch content, Branson teachers. This is the scenario for many Branson School District students in grades 6-12. And Deanna Sheets, the district’s director of Curriculum, Assessment & Federal Programs, says it’s going quite well. “At first our counselors felt a little bit overwhelmed,” Sheets says. “But we quickly learned that we needed to figure out a process that works. Our administration decided to move two certified elementary interventionists into virtual coordinator positions, and that was a key in making it all work.”
Rather than dividing students by the alphabet, these virtual coordinators are assigned students in family groupings. The coordinators spend their hours providing tech support, communicating and monitoring student progress and communicating with families, and this allows Branson’s Launch teachers—all 18 of them—to focus on teaching. “I think proper communication has been the most important factor,” Sheets says. “We communicate a lot with our content teachers. They have clear expectations with a primary focus of staying connected and providing feedback.”
Launch provided training for all Branson content teachers before the start of the semester, and we still help as needed. “We are very pleased now and feel like things are running smoothly,” Sheets says. “We’ve enjoyed our partnership with Launch and how much they’ve assisted us.” Launch currently has nearly a dozen districts that utilize content services and plans to continue offering the content catalog in future semesters.