Fairfax County Public Schools has decided to move away from Blackboard Learn, a virtual learning environment, for face to face instruction after experiencing ongoing issues.
Yesterday, Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced that the school system is going to shift to other learning tools for remote instruction.
“We recognize that our students and teachers need a reliable system for virtual learning; therefore, we are going to move away from Blackboard Learn 24-7 as a tool for face to face instruction,” Brabrand said in the letter. “Teachers and students will continue to use Blackboard Learn 24-7 to access instructional resources and supports.”
The school system had been using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, a real-time video conferencing tool, along with Blackboard Learn.
The decision comes after ongoing issues with Blackboard that FCPS was hoping would be resolved over the weekend. On Monday, FCPS noted login issues had not been resolved.
Today, teachers are not providing face to face instruction and are instead using Google Classroom, pre-recorded videos, learning packets, eBooks and programming on Channels 21, 25, and 99.
“We will also provide ‘face to face’ instruction to our students as schools begin the transition away from the Blackboard Learn 24/7 system. Schools will be preparing to provide virtual instruction through a secure Blackboard Collaborate Ultra link or through other alternative means,” he said.
More from Brabrand’s letter:
First, I am initiating a comprehensive, outside review of the distance learning rollout. We have retained Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, a law firm with expertise in information technology and cybersecurity. We anticipate a report from them in the next few weeks to guide our continued work in distance learning.
Secondly, I am creating the Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council with three co-chairs: Bobbie Kilberg, President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council; Andrew Ko, Managing Director of Global Education at Amazon Web Services; and Amy Gilliland, President of General Dynamics IT.
This council will initially offer guidance to help resolve any current distance learning challenges and provide ongoing support to enhance distance learning in a K-12 environment. The council will meet regularly to advise me on best practices in technology architecture and infrastructure, examine emerging software that will enhance online learning opportunities, and recommend cutting edge educational technology for teachers and students.
The council will also examine successful private sector experiences that can be applied to the K-12 environment.
In addition to capacity and load issues on Blackboard’s end, FCPS has also had security issues stemming from “leadership failures,” school officials previously said.
“Classes were hijacked by racist, homophobic and obscene language,” according to a recent Washington Post story. “Students appeared on screen naked or flashed weapons.”
The school board is set to get an update on distance learning at its virtual meeting on Thursday (April 23) at 10 a.m.
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