When schools were forced to quickly shift to distance learning in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) team immediately sprung into action to provide professional learning and support to educators within the network—which grew to 264 middle and high schools across the country by late 2020.
As a result, Verizon Innovative Learning recently received the 2021 Halo Award for Best COVID-19 Initiative from Engage for Good. The Halo Awards are North America’s highest honor for corporate social initiatives and cause marketing and showcase successful consumer engagement and employee engagement efforts.
Closing the digital divide became even more important last year as students without reliable internet access at home struggled to connect to their classes. However, the VILS initiative provides devices (iPads or Chromebooks) with monthly data plans—which increased from 10GB to 30GB during the pandemic—to every student and teacher within its network, so the schools were well-positioned for a smoother transition than most.
According to a December 2020 survey, more than 70 percent of teachers in Verizon Innovative Learning Schools reported feeling prepared for distance learning, with 93 percent crediting the program with making aspects of remote instruction easier to implement.
The Halo Award is not the only recognition the program has received this year. In March, Fast Company ranked Verizon sixth on its list of most innovative corporate social responsibility companies of 2021 for “bridging the ‘homework gap,’ allowing low-income children to be connected at home.” Moreover, last October, Verizon Innovative Learning won the 2020 Social Impact Award from Reuters Events Responsible Business Awards for its efforts to help close the digital divide.
“Closing the Digital Learning Gap has never been more important than over the last 14 months, as the pandemic has only heightened inequities that already existed in schools for traditionally marginalized learners,” said Lydia Logan, executive director of the VILS initiative at Digital Promise. “Our team worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our schools and educators across this country under the most challenging of circumstances.”
As a second school year began in distance or hybrid settings, the VILS team worked to make professional learning opportunities available to all teachers, not just those within the VILS network, by launching Teacher Training Pathways, a free platform offering courses to help teachers gain the necessary skills to effectively leverage technology in their instruction. Courses such as “Moving Forward with Hybrid Learning” and “Creating Digitally Inclusive and Accessible Learning Experiences” are aligned with Digital Promise micro-credentials.
Learn more about the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program at verizon.digitalpromise.org.