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Delta School moves to online teaching and learning with new Blackboard LMS

Delta School moves to online teaching and learning with new Blackboard LMS

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Delta School is a private school located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Established in 1999, the school operates on a 25,000 square metres campus that serves from primary to secondary school for males and females. The school is accredited by Cognia, the largest institution that supervises international curriculum. Recently the Saudi Arabia-based independent school implemented a learning management system (LMS), Blackboard to facilitate online teaching and learning. Mohammed Sultan, General Manager, Delta School, tells Intelligent CIO Middle East why it was important to implement Blackboard Learn Ultra solution.

Saudi Arabia’s Delta School first opened its doors in 1999. Since then, it’s four modest branches have been combined and grown into a 20,000 square-metre campus in Riyadh, with over 1,700 students and more than 300 employees. Over 200 faculty members disseminate learning across the school’s three separate lines: international, national and special needs.

Delta School’s vision is to strike an ideal balance between international curricula and regional programmes to equip their learners with a strong foundation. The school’s objective is to offer the best possible learning experience to each of their students by capably and efficiently meeting each learner’s unique needs. Therefore, the school strives to cultivate a supportive and nurturing environment.

The challenge

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic – as with most K-12 institutions across the region and beyond – Delta School leveraged a more traditional, in-person, face-to-face model of teaching and learning. Online classes and distance education were not a part of the school’s offering and at the time the school did not feel the need to integrate these formats into its structure. The school’s IT team comprised two members and the IT infrastructure comprised only basic systems to support the specific needs of some of the school’s departments. With the pandemic setting in and efforts to curb the rising number of cases, school closures and a hurried scramble to shift classes online took hold.

Delta School, like many other institutions of learning, wanted to facilitate the smoothest possible transition to remote learning for its learners, as well as their parents and its faculty, and ensure uninterrupted learning.

“We didn’t really feel the need for or the importance of online learning before the pandemic. We didn’t really hand out assignments online or conduct digital assessments – we operated purely through traditional methods of teaching and learning. We had done so for years. But the pandemic changed things. Suddenly we needed a solution that could support fully online classes and that could ensure academic continuity for our students,” said Mohammed Sultan, General Manager, Delta School and currently in-charge of its Finance and Administration department.

The solution

Before implementing a learning management system (LMS), Delta School considered several alternatives available on the market. While each had merit, it was Blackboard that won in the end. Firstly, stated the school, it’s because some of the other vendors were slow to revert in a situation where time was of the essence. Blackboard’s Gold Partner for the region, Board Middle East (BME), has a strong local presence in Saudi Arabia and was able to provide immediate support.

And second, was Blackboard’s ease-of-use. “Compared to the other versions we were considering back then, Blackboard’s solution was the most advanced, the most professional-looking and most importantly, the easiest to use by far. It has always been a well-known, well-liked and popular platform, and we were immediately able to see why. In such a severely compressed timeframe, the easier a solution is to use and adopt, the more effective it will be,” explained Sultan.

Of the range of available solutions, Delta School opted for Blackboard Learn Ultra. The Learn Ultra experience is the next generation of Blackboard’s LMS Learn and renders the solution’s user interface and workflows more intuitive and more responsive. It also presents as a user-friendly interface across a wide range of devices, which appealed to the school’s faculty and students alike.

Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience (Learn Ultra) delivers a simpler, more powerful teaching and learning experience. With a modern, intuitive, fully responsive interface, Learn Ultra better engages students, eases the burden on educators and clears the path to success. Powerful, yet simple tools and workflows help learners and instructors stay organised, easily take action and engage with content and each other. In addition, learners and instructors can easily learn and teach anytime, anywhere with Learn Ultra’s fully responsive design for all devices.

Blackboard is not just handing data but surfacing data that matters when it matters most – to foster more personalised interactions and drive student success.

According to Blackboard, the goal is to help all learners and instructors – regardless of age, ability or situation to succeed. The company’s accessibility is at the forefront of product development not an afterthought.

The implementation

To simplify the implementation process and ensure a smooth, efficient transition, the team at Blackboard conducted four online sessions in English and Arabic to train the school’s staff. This included separate sessions for its administrative staff. By the end of these sessions, most of the school’s staff had adjusted to the new LMS and were able to use and navigate it quite effectively.

And to ensure an equally smooth transition for parents, Delta School also sent out e-mails detailing the shift to virtual classes and offered support through feedback channels. The students themselves were split into smaller, easier-to-manage groups that were then assigned a principal each to address their needs and concerns. The students also received training in how to use their accounts. Both students and parents were provided sufficient opportunity to raise any questions or concerns.

The results

Delta School estimates it has seen a 60% boost in productivity and performance since the implementation of Blackboard Learn Ultra. The results have been encouraging enough that the school has decided to continue using Blackboard even after the students return to in-person classes. In such a scenario, the school plans to transfer nearly 40% of its teaching online and embrace a hybrid, blended learning model.

“Having an effective LMS in place has also helped us simplify tasks outside of learning such as disseminating announcements, conducting surveys, filing and exporting reports, monitoring student activity and attendance. In view of this, we are planning to implement an integrated system across the school, with a digital component to every aspect, from registration to attendance,” said Sultan. In this manner, Blackboard Learn Ultra has not only facilitated Delta School’s transition to virtual classes in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has also demonstrated the value and benefits of leveraging a strong LMS. It has encouraged the school to embrace the tools and techniques of digital teaching and learning, as well as drive Delta School to gradually implement an interconnected and integrated IT infrastructure

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