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APH Behind the Scenes: Getting to the “Point” of the APH Hive
The APH Hive is an eLearning platform for educators and families that contains free courses relevant to serving students of all ages who are blind or visually impaired. As participants sign up and begin taking courses, we can’t help but wonder, what makes the APH Hive buzz? We spoke to Amy Campbell, the Learning Management System Administrator, about how the APH Outreach Services team created and maintain the APH Hive.
Not familiar with the APH Hive? Read our introductory blog post before this behind-the-scenes.
Q: What is your role with the APH Hive?
A: I take care of managing the APH Hive, developing customized curricula to be housed in it, and collaborating with many people who can share content to load into the APH Hive.
Q: Where did the idea for the APH Hive come from, and who was involved in creating it?
A: The overall need for a professional development repository was requested by Ex Officio Trustees (EOT’s), specifically from the Educational Services Advisory Committee (ESAC). Once Leanne Grillot took the position of National Director of Outreach Services, she created the theme for the APH Hive.
Q: Interesting! Can you tell us about the process of making the APH Hive? What steps did the team take to turn this idea into a working learning management system?
A: Leanne Grillot reviewed 5 years of EPAC (Educational Products Advisory Committee) and ESAC recommendations in order to identify specific needs which a learning management system (LMS) needed to fulfill. She then examined a variety of LMS platforms, taking careful consideration of accessibility options.
Q: That’s great. Accessibility is very important! How long did it take to build the APH Hive? What was the most challenging part about developing it?
A: After selecting an LMS platform, the actual building of the APH Hive began in October 2019. While the framework was complete by the end of January 2020, the pandemic slowed the development of courses. By the time of the October 2020 launch, seven courses were embedded into the APH Hive. The most challenging part of managing the system is developing courses quickly enough to keep pace with demand.
Q: Speaking of APH Hive courses, we know that they all fall into one of four categories: Assessment, Early Childhood, Core Curriculum, and Expanded Core Curriculum. Can you give us some examples of courses in each category?
A: We have one course in the Assessment category, Evaluating Independent Living Skills Using the Functional Skills Assessment, and one course in the Early Childhood category, Creating Learning Environments with Items in the Home. The Core Curriculum category has three courses: LEGO Braille Bricks Play-Based Teaching Method; Tactile Aids for Mathematics; and All for One and One for All: Coaching an Inclusive Team. The last two courses are in the Expanded Core Curriculum category: Reinforcing Early Braille Literacy Skills and Magnification for Students on the Go.
Q: Participants, lovingly referred to as “bees,” can complete courses by watching the included video modules and checking their understanding through assessment and a follow-up activity. How long are these video modules? Who is presenting in them?
A: APH Hive courses share information on how to use APH products, as well as educators sharing craft knowledge. Instructors include APH Project Leaders and Consultants, Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI’s), and Orientation and Mobility Specialists. Because professionals everywhere are now busier than ever, we developed content that is delivered in bite-size pieces. Video modules are 10-15 minutes each.
Q: Can you tell us more about the types of assessments and follow-up activities in each course?
A: Participant knowledge of the content is measured in two ways: Check Your Understanding and Assessment. Check Your Understanding is a single question to answer following the completion of an instructional video module. When answered correctly, the user advances to the next module. Once all modules are completed, users are prompted to “Take Assessment,” which includes 5-10 multiple choice and True/False questions. 80% accuracy or better enables users to access the Follow-Up Activity, which is the final step for completing a course. These activities give users opportunities to apply new knowledge to field experience.
Q: Upon successful completion, all APH Hive courses offer ACVREP credits. How long does it take to finish a course? On average, how many credits are offered?
A: The ACVREP credit is aligned to the length of time it is projected to view the modules, take assessments, and then finish the follow-up activities. Depending on the course, it may take a user anywhere from 1-4 hours to complete, and they may earn between 1-4 hours of ACVREP credit.
Q: Looking at the courses as a whole, can you describe the people and processes involved in their creation? Did APH partner with anyone to make a specific course?
A: At this time, APH Hive courses are comprised of internal (in-house) content from ExCEL Academy and Access Academy webinars. In the future, the APH Hive will also house external professional development content representing other organizations and state-developed information.
Q: Awesome! Aside from ACVREP credits, what do you hope participants will get out of their time spent in the APH Hive?
A: We want professionals to grow in knowledge and walk away from APH Hive courses feeling equipped to serve the needs of students with visual impairments. With the vast shortage of VI professionals, we understand that states are challenged to fill educator positions. Often, TVI’s take on the role while still completing coursework or taking only the Praxis exam. The APH Hive assists Local Education Agencies to build capacity, by offering teachers a FREE place to access professional development.
Q: Finally, what’s next for the APH Hive?
A: Currently, the APH Hive has a pathway for educators and, in time, will expand to include additional pathways to serve families and leadership roles, such as EOT’s and statewide positions. In the future, the APH Hive will also offer mentorship and networking opportunities.