Telepresence technology enables ease of virtual learning in Monticello

High school students at Monticello have had virtual lessons for several years.
Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 10:40 AM CDT
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MONTICELLO, Wis. (WMTV) - For students in Monticello, online technology is not anything new. The Monticello School District has used telepresence units to allow teachers to hold classes across several different high schools.

In 2011, the district began a virtual college psychology class for Albany and Juda schools. A teacher would teach a lesson in person from a classroom in one school. That lesson can be live-streamed into another classroom at the same school or to a different school. Camera equipment is set up to allow the teacher to see the classroom in an effort to simulate a learning environment as quickly as possible.

Since then, virtual learning has grown to include other courses for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders.

“You want your classroom to feel like a classroom and not like an IT nightmare,” said Monticello School District Administrator Al Brokopp. “What you hope with all this equipment is that the technology goes away and actual interpersonal-ness of teaching and the relationships with the students can take place.”

Though students are attending school in person this fall, Brokopp says that they are taking advantage of the virtual learning technology. For example, a large 7th grade class would not fit into one classroom with social distancing protocols.

“It’s too many students to put into one classroom,” said Brokopp. “So we use a telepresence unit to become the overflow room so that teacher is still teaching to those kids at the same time.”

Since teachers are familiar with the set up, the transition to virtual learning is seamless, says Brokopp.

“With our staff being familiar with this kind of teaching, that’s really been advantageous for us,” said Brokopp. “The other thing is the familiarity of the students. This is all they’ve ever known really.”

When the school went all virtual back in March, students and teachers already had familiarity with the programs that enable a virtual lesson.

“It wasn’t perfect in March, but I feel like we were ahead of a lot of other places that were just throwing out devices and starting to do some online learning at this time,” added Brokopp.

The district has outlined plans in the event COVID-19 forces them to move to all remote instruction.

To read more about the reopening plan for this school year, click HERE.

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