One year ago, Perkins International launched a first-of-its-kind website connecting hundreds of special educators in 58 developing countries.
Now that website, the ELP Community, is being recognized as the “Most Successful Community Launch” by the software company Higher Logic.
Higher Logic announced winners of its Floyd Awards on Oct. 20. The awards are a showcase for Higher Logic clients who best use the company’s online community platform.
The ELP Community connects graduates of Perkins International’s Educational Leadership Program (ELP), who work around the world educating children and young adults with multiple disabilities and visual impairment, including deafblindness.
ELP graduates represent an elite group of teachers, trainers, therapists and related professionals. By logging into the ELP Community, they can instantly connect with their colleagues and stay up to date on the latest trends in blindness education.
“All it takes is a few clicks to share research or ask a question,” said Daniela Gissara, a 2010 ELP graduate and manager of the ELP Community. “Before we launched the website, nothing like this existed in our field. It’s a valuable professional development resource that now has us all collaborating more than ever.”
The ELP is Perkins International’s flagship teacher training program. After nine months of intensive study on the campus of Perkins School for the Blind, ELP graduates return home eager to transform educational services for children with multiple disabilities.
Since its launch in October 2016, membership in the ELP Community has grown to 293 users – a combination of ELP graduates, current ELP participants and Perkins staff. Users have contributed 840 posts to 195 unique discussion threads, while also sharing more than 100 articles, learning resources and blog posts.
The most popular discussion thread of the past year generated 31 posts about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), a brain-based condition that is the leading cause of visual impairment among children in developed countries.
“ELP graduates are eager to learn more about hot topics,” said Gissara. “There is a huge demand abroad for resources and knowledge on how to address the needs of children with CVI. We received so many questions, comments and helpful tips.”
Perkins was one of eight organizations to take home a Floyd Award. In its award announcement, Higher Logic credited Perkins for “(bringing) together professionals from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds and time zones to improve educational services offered for visually impaired children.”
The ELP Community represents a first step in Perkins International’s efforts to harness the power of digital learning platforms. Plans are also in the works to connect graduates of Perkins International Academy training courses with online resources and support.
“The success of the ELP Community is a testament to the passion and dedication of the educators we’ve trained across the globe,” said Perkins International Executive Director Michael Delaney. “Online tools like this will play an important role as we scale our efforts to train more teachers and reach more children with multiple disabilities.”