Digital Resource Portal Helps Educators, Parents and Students During Pandemic

Source: Alabama Department of Education.

The statewide closure of schools has prompted educators to find ways to add to their teaching capabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of that effort, two companies worked in partnership last month to create a digital resource portal for Alabama educators, parents and students from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Publishers’ Warehouse, in partnership with EBSCO Information Services, created EBSCOed to pull together online and published resources purchased by the state.

EBSCO Information Services, a division of EBSCO Industries Inc. in Birmingham, provides optimized e-journals, e-books and research databases combined with discovery service to support information needs.

“When it was decided that Alabama would not be going back to school, we started on the think tank and on March 16 we had a test site for the State Department of Education to look at,” Lisa Silver, president of Publishers’ Warehouse, said in a phone interview.

From there, a technology team worked to launch the digital portal. On March 23, the EBSCOed site went live.

Teachers who are educating students remotely can visit the digital portal and build lesson plans to send them. For educators who do not have devices or internet access at home, materials can be printed from EBSCOed and built into packages to push out to students.

Eric Mackey, the state superintendent of education, said the state has been “very successful” in distributing support and resources.

“We send things to local superintendents, and then they get them out to their principals and teachers,” Mackey said in a phone interview. “That system has, fortunately, worked wonderfully so far.”

Formerly named the Alabama Remote Learning Portal, EBSCOed is the first step toward what EBSCO plans to provide school districts across Alabama and other states.

“We look forward to a day when these platforms can be customized not only for school districts and schools, but for?specific classes ?and individual students,” Silver said.

Mackey said there were glitches in some communities, “but for the most part, (remote learning) has worked really, really well.”

Included in the Department of Education’s Continuity Plan, EBSCOed will indicate a long-term intention toward a product that will allow for customizable digital learning, Silver said.

Uniformity exists across the state for getting information to schools, but “working the plans changes from school to school and community to community,” Mackey said.

“So we’ve given them a lot of discretion to write their own plans, but they did have to submit their plans to us and, at this point, every school system’s plan has been reviewed and approved.”

Some Alabamians who do not have access to the internet cannot take advantage of this opportunity.

“There are a lot of resources out there as long as a person has an internet connection, and that is the main thing that we are concerned about,” Mackey said.

The next step, Mackey said, is to ensure internet connections across the state.

“We’re focusing our efforts on trying to get strong internet connections in every community in the state — and not just every community but every household, actually,” Mackey said. “There are so many great resources available, but if you don’t have an internet connection that becomes incrementally more difficult to access those resources.”

Educators, students and parents can access EBSCOed at