Like most districts, the School District of Pickens County (SDPC) in South Carolina loses instructional days throughout the year when schools are forced to close because of inclement weather like ice storms and hurricanes.
The immediate impact is a missed day of learning, but teachers find they continue to lose time when they’re back in the classroom. Most have to review, or in some cases, re-teach lessons that happened before a storm day to refresh students’ memories. “A lot of times, we were out so many days they just didn’t remember the content,” explains Melanie Callahan, a sixth-grade teacher for SDPC.
The district added makeup days to the end of the school year, but many weren’t convinced they were beneficial.
In 2018, SDPC was chosen as one of five districts in the state to pilot digital learning days as a way for students to learn from home during school closures.
“One of the tools that made digital learning days possible was our ClassLink single sign-on portal,” says Barbara Nesbitt, Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services.
“From Pre-K all the way up to high school, by going into our single sign-on portal, they’re able to access all of their textbooks [and] all of their web resources with one simple application.”
Since 2015, SDPC students have used ClassLink Launchpad district wide as a single sign-on solution that gives students access to all their digital learning resources in one place with just one username and password.
On a digital learning day, students can sign into ClassLink Launchpad on any digital device at home to access assignments and online learning resources, just like they do at school. “We have ClassLink, which our students use every single day in every single class. So asking them to log on was the same as doing it in the classroom, but instead, they’re on their couch in their pajamas,” says fourth-grade teacher Rachael Hugg.
For their first digital learning day, the district encouraged students and parents to use the hashtag “SDPCweatherproof” in their social media posts to share feedback on the experience.
“I was convinced that it was just going to be an avalanche of snark from students who didn’t want to be doing anything on a snow day. But really, most of what we got back was from parents who were excited about what their children were learning that day,” says John Eby, Coordinator of communication.
Today, Nesbitt says digital learning days ensure learning continues, even when students can’t be in the classroom. “It’s just the new norm for us. There’s no going back, and tools like Classlink made digital learning days possible for us.”