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Using Data to Advocate for Changes in Virtual and Hybrid Learning Models

Advocating for changes to virtual and hybrid learning models through data use


The Learning Accelerator (TLA)’s Strategy Lab: Virtual and Hybrid (SLVH) program brought together a cohort of virtual and hybrid schools across the country that were working to strengthen their models through networked learning and individual coaching. During their participation in the SLVH cohort, Novi Community School District identified a need to gain their school board’s support to change policies for their virtual school to increase equity and flexibility to better meet the needs of their virtual students, especially after seeing a surge in enrollment during the 2022-23 school year. As a result, Novi Community School District used data as a tool to advocate for change.

Novi’s virtual school originally utilized large blocks of synchronous classes. However, a large number of Novi students were unable to attend synchronous classes due to international travel, illness, and even professional commitments, such as sports. Due to their time away from Novi, several students experienced unfinished learning after missing out on class time. Novi’s virtual school staff also learned that students who weren’t able to attend live classes were less successful academically.

By collecting data through discussions with students and families, Novi learned that the biggest drivers of virtual school enrollment were the school’s ability to enable students to learn at their own pace, maintain flexible schedules, and have access to teachers when needed. Families shared personal stories of hardship accessing in-person instruction, but expressed that they wanted a flexible solution that Novi didn't offer. As such, Novi sought to redesign instruction within their model to both meet the flexibility needs of students and honor families’ desire to access teachers and curriculum in a way that is sustainable for teachers. Novi ran a pilot and collected data to understand the extent to which the pilot met the needs of teachers, students, and families alike. Data revealed that 100% of teachers said they would continue the asynchronous model beyond the pilot, and 25% of those teachers would make modifications based on their students’ needs. Over 80% of students agreed that their experience improved with the incorporation of more asynchronous class time.

Novi used a variety of data collection processes to understand and advocate for the learning needs of their students. The following steps can be used to advocate for change in your own school, district, and communities.

Gather stakeholder feedback: Identify the need and get to the heart of the problem by meaningfully engaging stakeholders.

  • Give students opportunities to share their feedback authentically. For example, Novi surveyed their students to receive feedback on their model and to gauge whether other methods would benefit students’ learning in a virtual setting.

  • Novi conducted empathy interviews in which they talked to families and students to understand why they enrolled in a virtual school, what aspects of the experience they liked, and where there were opportunities for improvement.

Pilot a solution and gather a variety of data: Once feedback is gathered from key stakeholders, the data can be used to design a solution for improvement and then pilot that solution. Implementing a solution at a smaller scale (such as in the format of a pilot) enables schools and districts to collect their own data and measure its success, leaving room for continuous improvement. Collecting data to measure the success of a pilot should be done in various ways to add context and supportive elements to help advocate for change:

  • Surveys: Novi conducted pilot experience and stakeholder engagement surveys with teachers and students who participated in the pilot to assess its impact and participants’ satisfaction with the overall program.

  • Academic metrics: Leaders can assess a program’s impact on student academics, as well as family and teacher experiences. Look into metrics like performance on assessments, submission rates on assignments, and engagement in synchronous sessions.

  • Street data (conversations, reflections, and feedback): Leaders should continue to talk to the stakeholders who are directly impacted by the pilot. In addition to quantitative data, gather qualitative data through conversations with students, teachers, and families about their thoughts on the new model.

Keep decision-makers close to the work: It is important to keep district leadership informed about the progress and findings of the virtual and hybrid models being deployed in their schools and systems. Sharing updates and data with these stakeholders will help them understand the need for adjustments and improvements. With the right data, education leaders are better equipped to make informed decisions and support the development of successful learning experiences for all students.

  • Novi shared findings from empathy interviews with students and families with their district leaders. Disclosing these findings with district leaders bolstered critical buy-in among leadership to allow Novi’s virtual team to conduct a pilot to adjust their model.

  • Novi’s virtual team also shared their data collection methods for measuring the success of the pilot experience to gain feedback from district leaders. Likewise, the team provided academic performance data to their district leaders. The Novi team also collaborated with other virtual and hybrid schools in the SLVH cohort to learn about successful aspects of other programs and were able to incorporate these learnings into their own virtual school. During these sessions, district leaders were given the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions to their peers.

  • Novi also collected and shared data throughout the pilot implementation phase, including pre- and post-assessments. The team provided evidence that captured stakeholder experiences and feedback, alongside impacts on academic performance.

As a result of leveraging both quantitative and qualitative data to test a solution and advocate for changes in their school, Novi will scale their pilot for all high school grades during the 2023-24 school year.