How Illinois Principals Association Leverages Bridge to Centralize Learning, Improve the Standard of School Leadership and Teaching, and Increase Course Completions

Supporting school leaders and improving teaching standards through online learning.

Established

1971

Industry

Primary and Secondary Education

Headquarters

Springfield, Illinois

Mission

To develop and support educational leaders through free online learning.

The Challenge:

Consolidate Learning Materials for Educational Professionals

Illinois Principals Association (IPA) is a non-profit membership organization that provides online professional learning to educators across the country through its Ed Leaders Network (ELN) platform. IPA has partnered with the Illinois State Board of Education to provide free online learning resources on ELN to public school employees in the state of Illinois. 

The ELN courses provided include state-mandated multi-media training for educators to maintain certification. In addition, the ELN learning library includes courses designed to ensure principals understand the teacher evaluation process and gives them access to activities that allow them to practice and calibrate the process for consistency. The full ELN course catalog includes a variety of professional learning opportunities and topics educators can use to earn credits for recertification and to expand their personal and professional learning.

Formerly, IPA did not take advantage of a learning management system. Professional development was delivered through live PowerPoint presentations, webinars, or static voice-over narration. As the need increased for online learning, user feedback indicated educators wanted to earn certificates and track professional development hours via an online learning platform.

To meet its needs, IPA began exploring learning management systems that would:

  • Provide the features that end-users were requesting
  • Centralize, coordinate, and distribute multi-media professional development materials developed and drawn from multiple platforms 
  • Develop and host video-driven professional learning
  • Allow the ability for end-users to work on courses at their own pace—starting and stopping as needed—and schedule their learning to fit their needs and busy routines

The Solution:

An LMS With Flexibility

In 2017, after the unsuccessful trial of another platform, IPA chose Bridge LMS to host its content. Bridge offered not only the perfect fit for ELN’s needs but was affordable too—a very important consideration when faced with tight margins.

With Bridge, IPA is able to offer end-users fully-developed, outcome-based professional development courses that contain short scripted video segments enhanced by reflective activities, quizzes, reading resources, and self-assessments. As part of course development, IPA has been developing a vast library of video content on Vimeo. IPA needed to be able to deliver this content while protecting accessibility. The ELN platform, in conjunction with Bridge LMS, handles this function perfectly.

The reach and flexibility of Bridge are key features of the IPA’s success with the platform. Having a variety of courses just one click away after a single login means that busy educators have easy access to high-quality learning materials drawn from multiple sites.

“For us, the beauty of the Bridge LMS is that it’s simple and it works.”

IPA’s Vicki DeWitt, Professional Development Project Manager

Another powerful feature of Bridge is the ability for educators to break their learning down into small segments and easily integrate it into their already busy schedules. This is crucial because IPA’s own statistics show that 94% of users are accessing courses via desktops, only 4% via cellphones, and a mere 2% with tablets. For the most part, learning isn’t taking place on the move, so being able to start learning, pause it and break the course down into small segments means learners aren’t tied to their desks in order to finish a course. 

For IPA, Bridge’s LMS has been particularly effective in supporting, developing, and delivering Ed Leaders Network’s on-demand learning material to educators and educational leaders. A crucial part of these on-demand learning materials is the teacher evaluation training materials and video. These training materials allow an extensive library of online training materials to be shared within a community of peers and experts. This is an important and impactful tool in teacher evaluation as it allows principals to practice evaluations by viewing scenario videos of both “good” and “bad” teachers in action and allows them to provide practice feedback on what they see. Principals can then check and calibrate their observations against those of a professional evaluation and determine how well they completed the task. In this way, IPA has provided a way for principals to provide a more consistent evaluation process for teachers throughout the state, meaning teachers are more fairly treated in the evaluations process. 

Bridge’s LMS has proven very popular. The tools have allowed IPA with limited resources to focus on the development of on-demand courses, and Bridge’s reliability is proving a huge benefit. IPA has been using Bridge’s LMS since 2017 with very few technical hiccups. This is important due to the small size of IPA’s tech support team—it needs a product that was reliable and user-friendly right out-the-box for developers, learners, managers, and tech support.

“I can’t remember the last time we needed to submit a call to Bridge for support. It’s seamless and the ease of support is fantastic.”

IPA’s Julie Mosenden Miener, Technology Director

The Results:

An Improved Standard of Learning

Before adopting Bridge in 2018, IPA had around 5,000 users. Since Bridge has been implemented, that figure has grown to nearly 110,000 in less than five years.

With Bridge, IPA has been able to develop and significantly increase the number of courses offered—from a mere handful of courses in 2017 to 145 courses in early 2022. Course completion rates are increasing too. In 2020, 154,705 course completions were reported and in the first two quarters of 2022, the reported completion rate already stands at 163,789. Bridge’s ease of use is fueling enthusiasm and guiding learners to complete and retain courses taken. The end-result is better professional development for the educators which translates to a better learning experience for public school pupils in Illinois.

The standard of teacher evaluation has risen too. Since using Bridge, educators who participate in IPA’s professional development have experienced a 98% pass rate for the teacher evaluation administrator academy. During the course evaluation, educators answer a series of questions to determine whether the training has positively impacted their professional learning standard and their knowledge. Since moving to Bridge, the overwhelming majority of answers are ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’.

“Bridge has been the key to our success, and the only learning platform we’re using.”

IPA’s Arlin Peebles, Ed Leaders Network Director

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