The face of education is rapidly changing with the understanding that the needs of the student go beyond the teacher classroom setting. Schools are facing budget crunches and more than ever, teachers are under pressure to do more with less. Students are receiving less attention due to the overwhelming size of classrooms, peer pressures and other distractions. Both parents are working to make end meet and don’t have the time to spend watching their children as attentively as they would like. What does this all mean? Schools, teachers, parents and the community must work together to ensure that each child receives an education that prepares them for adult life so they are able to sustain a respectable quality standard of living.
 

Creating a Learning Culture
Most Education institutions success in creating a culture of learning depends entirely on the commitment and cooperation of all partners in education. While provincial governments are charged with focusing and mobilizing resources to realize our educational vision, the goals can be achieved only if each partner shares the vision, contributes fully to the process and believes in the unbounded capacity of the province to learn and prosper.

Parental involvement is considered to be one of the most important success factors for learning. Parents are best placed to instill in their children a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge by modeling learning behavior, expressing interest in and support for their children’s education and providing learning opportunities at home. Parental involvement takes the form of individual parents supporting their children, and parents willing to take active roles in the success of their children’s schools, as members of Parent School Support Committees, and in other capacities.

Students themselves will always have the most impact on their own learning successes. To be successful, students must participate, as fully as possible, in the learning opportunities available to them and accept increasing responsibility for their own learning as they grow and mature.

Excellent teachers in strong schools are the backbone of quality learning. They help each student reach desired learning outcomes by identifying and implementing appropriate learning and assessment strategies, developing critical thinking abilities, and shaping students’ personal growth. School principals play an especially important role in the development of strong, successful schools, by maintaining safe, positive and effective environments in which teachers and students are motivated to perform at their best.

Local communities bring support and resources to quality education. As locally elected representatives of the community, the education councils, together with district and school staff, bring education to life for K to 12 students. Each council sets the policy framework within which the superintendent administers and operates the school district. By reflecting local needs and desires in the pursuit of high standards, the councils are full and essential partners in achieving quality schools, high results.

IT Strategy
The most common Education strategy (specific to IT) is to create a dynamic learning environment that best prepares their students to better serve the community as employed and productive adults.

Most Education institutions believe the new academic enterprise consists of business need, instruction requirements and technology as a facilitator. This will enable them to:

  • Prepared for dramatic change in education
  • Personalized instruction to facilitate success for every student
  • Data-driven decision-making
  • Connecting school-to-home with student centric education
  • Relevant, continuous professional development
  • Information technology is the enabler

The following are the key points of the IT Education solution strategy:

  • Map requirements to the specific needs of the staff, teachers and students specific to the Education vision.
  • Provide IT maneuverability – is able to support new and diverse applications and services.
  • Create IT Agility – is able to respond to the application and service needs of the schools.
  • Mitigate risks – minimize the short term delivery costs (leverage existing investments), maximize success by leveraging alliances and relationships and, avoid costly “Tear-out-and-replace” scenarios.
  • Minimize the impact to the college daily operation.
  • Adopt technologies that extend the reach of the business to provide greater and more flexible access to applications and data.

The Technology Aspect of the Solution
To provide a platform for delivering education services, information and applications to the children, schools, teachers and Parents the concept of an Education Portal was adopted. The Portal would provide a framework and mechanism for the deployment of education services, information and applications in a rapid cost effective manner.

The proposed Education Portal solution provides the users with functions and services that map to the education Framework to achieve its goals and measures. This was achieved by using best practices whereby a top down approach was taken to design the portal. In addition, the best practices utilized elements of Experience Design whereby the team modeled the users work environment, technology usage patterns and key pain points. In doing so, decision support (Background, user surveys, workshop exercise material) was available to the team for making substantiated design related decisions in order to determine critical functions and services required to achieve Education goals – which facilitates user adoption of the Portal. The following sections describe the solution from user requirements, project logistics and technology perspectives.

Specifics of the Portal include:

  • Closer two way teacher – student relationships for distance learning students.
  • Virtual classroom environments for students working in class and from home.
  • Communication mechanisms between teachers and parents to keep up to date on their Childs progress.
  • Learning object repository for curriculum, measures and outcomes for teachers.
  • Access to experts for advice dealing with gifted children.
  • Mentoring and tutoring services for students.
  • Student locker for all assignments and digital media for the duration of their K to 12 education.
  • eClassrooms (rich collaboration and knowledge sharing environments) for assignments, projects and special interest groups.

The Portal technology is based on SharePoint Portal server (provides Portal functions to organize and manage content) and the following other technologies:

  • SQL Server 2000 (relational database required by SharePoint to store content)
  • Live Communication Server 2005 for real time communication
  • Exchange 2003 (Email and Calendaring)
  • Windows 2003 Server (required operating system).

Together, these technologies in conjunction with a user adoption plan, content Plan, Project Plan, Risk Plan and Communication Plan will facilitate the planning, design and full deployment of the Education Portal.

Summary
The Education Portal is a key enabler to Provinces creating a cohesive learning environment that brings the schools, parents and learning partners together for the benefit of the student. Children will have a rich learning environment, teachers will have access to key information and support to provide strong education services efficiently and parents will have up to date information regarding the progress of their children.

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