Principal, Avaya and St. Johns School
Next-Generation Customer Experience
St. John’s School in a Chicago suburb chose Avaya Spaces, a workstream collaboration solution that enabled them to successfully transition the entire student body to an immersive online learning program within one week of the state’s shelter-in-place orders. From document sharing and instant messaging to video classes to recording graduation and conducting “show and tell” in their homes, the students of St. John’s have been thriving.
- Launch online learning operations for students in short notice due to Covid-19 restrictions
- No school issued laptops so students would be using home computers
- No IT staffing to handle complicated video and collaboration platforms
- Staff with limited learning technology skills
The challenges of shifting to a remote learning model are clear, with teachers at some schools across the U.S. reporting that fewer than half of their students were participating in online learning. Then there’s Matthew Kamien, Principal at St. John’s Lutheran School in a Chicago suburb. Using Avaya Spaces, he successfully transitioned his entire student body (grades pre-school through 8) to an immersive online learning program within one week of the state’s shelter in place orders.
St. John’s was challenged with quickly finding a solution for distance learning. Many of the solutions Kamien looked at had problems. Some required an email address which younger students didn’t have. Others had time limits, which interrupted lessons and required users to log back in. But Avaya Spaces ticked all the boxes. “No time limits, no need for permissions, an easy link to click on. Boom, done.” St. John’s took advantage of the free trial offered from Avaya and then purchased licenses because all were so pleased. Any concerns Kamien had about teachers or parents who were not tech savvy vanished once they tried the platform. They quickly saw the simplicity in setting up classrooms virtually. “Teachers and students can do anything that they normally would in the classroom. Our educators are free to create custom lesson plans to meet students’ specific needs, and we didn't miss a beat.”
Avaya Spaces enabled St. John’s to quickly implement a simple, single, user-friendly solution that students, teachers, and administrators could use on any device without the need to install and maintain software. Beyond education, St. John’s is using the platform for board meetings, and faculty meetings. “I’ve always considered myself a pioneer of new technology and ideas for educating, but COVID-19 was a challenge beyond anything I could have imagined. It wasn’t about just using a video solution to see each other. It was about moving operations entirely online,” Kamien explained. “Having the Avaya OneCloud™ solution with Avaya Spaces allowed our school and parish to continue its feeling of connected family and community. When seeking a solution, this was paramount. It is who we have been for over 150 years.” The online experience has been so great that the overwhelming majority of parents said they would be happy with the quality of their child’s education should the school permanently transition to remote learning. With such success, the school decided to continue full-time online learning throughout the year.
Teachers have a separate “space” for each class to attach assignments, have persistent chat, hold classes, and more. Space is always there, whether class is in session or not. Teachers can also set passwords tfor security, and change passwords if someone needs to be removed.After school programs like STEM and Spanish Club were able to continue. Four 7th graders tested into 8th grade honors algebra, two got the highest test scores. Students did the NWEA MAP Growth Test in reading, language arts, and math. We had an 80% average on or above grade level. Majority of 8th graders tested into honors classes for high school and a 7th grader tested into 8th grade honors algebra. For Veterans Day we had Vets join classes to speak about service. Students learned and performed West African dance for Black History Month using Avaya Spaces. It caught the attention of the local news. For Women’s History Month a professional softball player joined class speaking of her journey as an athlete. Avaya allowed us to safely and successfully conduct parent-teacher conferences.
Avaya Spaces is a workstream collaboration platform that offers evolved communications capabilities for any device. AI-enhanced meetings and simpler, integrated voice and video calling provide the right solution for remote work and learning. Avaya Spaces saves everything, so you don’t have to remember it all. HIPAA and GDPR compliant, with enterprise-grade security. Integrates with Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Slack, and more. Plus, APIs ready to build any workflow. Invite up to 1,000 people.
The first two challenges were 1) training teachers 2) making sure it worked for students and parents. This all had to be done remotely. After creating accounts and sessions, I individually met with teachers and showed them the functions of Spaces and how to use it. The one-on-one training sessions were key as it allowed me to walk teachers through at their pace. After meeting with the teachers I created student information sessions meeting with all students. Some students had laptops, chromebooks, tablets, and/or iPads. As a school we were nervous how this would work since we didn’t have school issued devices for the students, but Avaya Spaces worked on every device. We were very pleased we were able to get everything going in a week unlike other schools that had an IT department or student issued devices. All students and teachers had an easy time using Avaya Spaces. The tech support at Avaya was also very helpful and would respond quickly. I would meet with teachers weekly as individual or team meetings to answer any questions about using Spaces, procedures for remote learning, student and academic questions. The school board and I switched from monthly to bi-weekly meetings when the pandemic began and Avaya allowed us to have those important decision making meetings.
St. John’s chose Avaya Spaces to provide the safest learning environment possible. Parents expressed that our remote learning experience is much better than other schools. Kamien loved Avaya Spaces so much that he created t-shirts for all of the teachers to wear. It reads: I will teach you at any place, I will teach you now on Avaya Space. I will teach you in my house, I will teach you with a mouse. I will teach you here or there. I will teach you because I care.
About Avaya and St. Johns School
St. John’s serves the children in our community and their families by connecting the whole person–body, mind, and spirit. Our students are well prepared for their future careers. For over 168 academic years of serving the community, teachers use both traditional teaching methods and modern technology. Having small classes allows for more attention given to students and their families.