Everyone remembers their favorite teacher—the inspirational figure who truly cared, the mentor who went above and beyond to give students a chance to succeed. In schools all across America, teachers are striving to be that transformative mentor, to not just lecture students and give out grades, but to truly make a difference in the life of each and every child in their classroom.
“Considering that we’re one of the world’s wealthiest nations, teaching as a profession is seriously undervalued and underfunded in America,” says Casey Koon, an Emmy-nominated leader in interactive media and digital platforms and director of product at the nonprofit online community Teaching Channel. “That needs to change.”
New Relic’s Nonprofit Program is trying to help facilitate that change. The program is designed to support the important work done by nonprofits like Teaching Channel by giving them access to New Relic’s easy to use, cloud-based software. New Relic’s technology is designed to help these organizations quickly improve their software performance and get new insights into their organizations.
For teachers, by teachers
Teaching Channel is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating an online environment where teachers can watch, share, and learn new pedagogical techniques. The community is free to join. More than 1,000 videos have been uploaded to date, providing an essential resource for the site’s 750,000 registered users, who together represent more than one third of America’s teachers.
In addition, the organization offers a subscription-based platform, Teaching Channel Teams, designed for schools, districts, and states seeking to deepen video-based collaboration and improvement among their own teaching staffs. With Teams, teachers can upload videos from their own classrooms, offering inspiration to—and gathering feedback from—their peers. Users have uploaded an additional 42,246 videos of their own practice onto the platform. Teams is designed to enable districts to scale and improve their professional learning programs, bringing together teachers who—whether they live a few miles or across the state from one another—might otherwise never have the chance to interact.
Access for all
Thanks to funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Teaching Channel now employs over 30 full-time staff supported by a team of contractors. The ongoing success of the organization depends to a large extent on the health and performance of its website, which receives approximately one million unique visits each month (more during seasonal spikes).
Providing a robust online resource for teachers comes with challenges. “Many teachers are working in areas with poor connectivity, low bandwidth, and so on,” says Casey. “Others may not be very tech-savvy. Or they’re in a state with its own unique standards and curricula. Our site has to be accessible and functional for all of them.”
What’s more, Teaching Channel’s core employees mostly have a background in education, rather than in technology or business. So how does a passionate bunch of experienced educators run a hugely popular and effective website?
For programming, design, and development, Teaching Channel works with Seattle-based Web agency Substantial. For application monitoring and software performance, it relies on New Relic.
When Casey joined Teaching Channel, he was struck immediately by the vital role played by New Relic APM. “It was amazing to see how much useful data New Relic offered—how it engaged with and impacted every single aspect of our site.”
Thanks to New Relic, Casey and his colleagues can monitor site traffic and troubleshoot quickly and effectively. Video upload tools, for example, are notoriously prone to crashing, particularly when connectivity is weak. With videos representing the backbone of Teaching Channel’s content, dealing with such crashes (or, even better, avoiding them altogether) is essential. New Relic has made that process more manageable.
With new initiatives in the pipeline, its online community growing, and its library of resources expanding, Teaching Channel is well positioned to continue to scale and reach more educators in need across the country.
In addition to helping teachers support and learn from one another, Casey sees the site becoming a unique record and repository for its users. “We want to be a place that teachers can feel comfortable and safe in,” he says. “That they can use as part of their professional development, but also as a portfolio of their practice.”
For America’s teachers, working to do the best job they can in the face of so many challenges, Teaching Channel represents a hugely positive force. “We want teachers to know they’re not alone out there,” says Casey. “To know that lots of other teachers are dealing with lots of the same difficulties, and they have the ability find one another—to find this community and find the inspiration and the help they need.”
Better software for a better world: New Relic’s Nonprofit Program aims to amplify the important work done by nonprofits around the world by improving their software performance, helping them to better serve their chosen cause. Proud to be in a position to give back, New Relic hopes to become the leading software analytics provider in the nonprofit sector. To find out more about New Relic’s offers and services for nonprofits, visit newrelic.com/nonprofit.