Neat + Zoom = Exceptional Hybrid Learning for Kildeer Countryside School District 96.

Neat, 2020-12-04

Like many school districts across the country, Kildeer Countryside School District 96 (KCSD 96) in Lake County, Illinois, found itself in unfamiliar territory as it faced the daunting prospect of continuing to teach the district’s 3,300 students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With four elementary schools, two middle schools, and an early childhood/kindergarten center, KCSD 96 reacted quickly when schools first closed in the spring to keep all students learning remotely: letting kids take school iPads home and starting to use Zoom to continue some lessons via video.


Challenge

Like many school districts across the country, Kildeer Countryside School District 96 (KCSD 96) in Lake County, Illinois, found itself in unfamiliar territory as it faced the daunting prospect of continuing to teach the district’s 3,300 students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With four elementary schools, two middle schools, and an early childhood/kindergarten center, KCSD 96 reacted quickly when schools first closed in the spring to keep all students learning remotely: letting kids take school iPads home and starting to use Zoom to continue some lessons via video.

Solution

The district’s IT team explored a range of technology options for returning to classrooms. They standardized on Zoom, which offers flexibility, ease of use for teachers, and features such as Breakout Rooms that support class activities. They initially considered simply providing basic webcams, microphones, and AirPods for teachers to use with their laptops, but realized when discussing with teachers that it would limit interactivity among students and leave remote students out of collaborative classroom activities. When they tested the Neat Bar, they quickly discovered that this was a solution that would put both remote and in-person students on a level playing field, while also being easy to use for teachers.

“We didn’t even realize that it would be possible to simultaneously teach remote and in-person students in a seamless way, but when we tried the Neat Bar and Zoom Rooms, we found that it allowed the kids to interact and allowed us to build a true classroom community even with the kids in different environments,” said Schmidt.

Key for KCSD 96 was that the Neat Bar and Zoom Rooms make it possible to seamlessly teach both groups of students, without the teacher and kids in the classroom being tied to their iPads. “We didn’t want remote school supervision,” added Schmidt. “This allows the kids to interact and doesn’t diminish the robustness of the learning experience for either group.”

“When we first saw the Neat solution, we liked that it was an all-in-one device that wouldn’t require much configuration and would work seamlessly with Zoom,” said Michael Stonacek, Data Support Specialist with KCSD 96. “Once we tested it, we realized that the video and audio were great, so teachers don’t have to worry about that and can focus on teaching.”

Another key concern for KCSD 96 was getting a solution deployed to all their schools before they returned to classrooms and hybrid learning. “We had a short window to find a solution and get it set up before school started. We got a Neat Bar to demo in just a few days and once we’d decided to move forward, we were able to purchase all the Neat Bars and the Zoom Rooms licenses we needed and deploy everything in under two weeks,” added Stonacek.

With input from teachers, the district deployed identical setups across all seven schools in the district. They quickly assembled and installed a package including a Neat Bar, existing monitors, and a cart for each classroom plus auxiliary spaces used for electives, counseling, and staff needs.

With Neat Bar installed with large TV screens, the kids can all see each other and feel part of class, plus it’s easy for the teachers to see the remote kids and keep them engaged. Additionally, because the Neat Bar is purpose-built to work with Zoom, there was less of a learning curve for teachers so it was smoother for them to get back into the classroom and focus on teaching, knowing the technology would just work.

“It’s so important for teachers to build relationships with students, whether they are together in person or not,” added Schmidt. “With Neat and Zoom Rooms, not only can remote students be part of the classroom community, but it’s also easy for teachers to have small group interactions using Breakout Rooms, let kids pop in and out of rooms, and have 1:1 interactions and actually see each other.”

Results

Looking beyond the pandemic, KCSD 96 feels confident the investment will continue to provide benefits. Not only does the Neat and Zoom solution make it easy for faculty and staff to hold meetings remotely to limit travel, but it also opens the opportunity for schools to collaborate with one another across the district and with the local high school.

“Now, we have the opportunity to brainstorm how to capitalize on this and use the tech post-COVID. We are excited to explore how we can innovate beyond a basic blended learning environment,” said Schmidt. “The solution from Neat and Zoom opens the door to help us transform our teaching and learning to give kids access to things they weren’t able to do before.”