In a pinch, company helped state switch to online learning

In a pinch, company helped state switch to online learning

By ABBY DRIGGERS, Alabama Daily News

The statewide closure of schools has prompted educators to find ways to add to their teaching capabilities.

Faced with an unprecedented challenge of quickly connecting the state’s online learning platform, last month Publishers’ Warehouse in partnership with EBSCO Information Services, created EBSCOed, a digital PreK-12 resource portal for educators, parents and students. The portal pulls together online and published resources purchased by the state.

EBSCO Information Services, a division of EBSCO Industries, Inc. based in Birmingham, provides optimized e-journals, e-books and research databases combined with discovery service to support information needs.

“When it was decided that Alabama would not be going back to school, we started on the think tank and on March 16 we had a test site for the State Department of Education to look at,” Lisa Silver, president of Publishers’ Warehouse, said in a phone interview.

From there, a technology team worked to launch the digital portal. On March 23, the EBSCOed site went live.

Teachers who are educating students remotely can visit the digital portal and build lesson plans to send them. For educators who do not have devices or internet access at home, materials can be printed from EBSCOed and then built into packages to push out to students.

Eric Mackey, the State Superintendent of Alabama, said the state has been “very successful” in distributing support and resources.

“We send things to local superintendents, and then they get them out to their principals and teachers,” Mackey said in a phone interview. “That system has, fortunately, worked wonderfully so far.”

Formerly named the Alabama Remote Learning Portal, EBSCOed is the first step in what EBSCO plans to provide school districts across Alabama and others. 

“We look forward to a day when these platforms can be customized not only for school districts and schools, but for  specific  classes and individual students,” Silver said.

Mackey says some communities had “glitches but for the most part, (remote learning) has worked really, really well.”

Included in the Alabama State Department of Education’s Continuity Plan, EBSCOed will indicate a long-term intention toward a product that will allow for customizable digital learning, Silver says.

Uniformity exists across the state for getting information to schools, but “working the plans changes from school-to-school and community to community, and even you know grade or subject, one to another,” Mackey said.

“What’s going on in, you know, eighth-grade math class in one part of the state is not going to be the same as the eighth-grade band class in another part of the state,” Mackey said. “So, we’ve given them a lot of discretion to write their own plans, but they did have to submit their plans to us and at this point, every school system’s plan has been reviewed and approved.”

Some Alabamians who do not have access to the Internet cannot take advantage of this opportunity.

“There are a lot of resources out there as long as a person has an internet connection and that is the main thing that we are concerned about,” Mackey said.

The next step, Mackey says, is to ensure internet connections across the state.

“We’re focusing our efforts on trying to get strong internet connections in every community in the state – and not just every community but every household, actually,” Mackey said. “There are so many great resources available, but if you don’t have an internet connection that becomes incrementally more difficult to access those resources.”

Educators, students and parents can access EBSCOed at EBSCOed.com.