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Kyle DeWitt

The Rise of Remote Education

Among the many things COVID-19 has exposed about our society, the varying degrees of technological preparedness among schools ranks high. When stay at home issues were ordered, many schools were able to quickly adapt to remote learning, while others realized they lacked the resources and solutions needed to ensure student success outside of the classroom. What once seemed to be a non-urgent, multi-year lift for school districts to upgrade has now become a necessity for ensuring that students don’t fall behind. Fortunately, there is great opportunity for VARs and agents to work with school systems to help them enter a more digital world, whether that be a complete overhaul or a few minor upgrades.

One of the first steps when working with school systems is to assess their current broadband usage and future connectivity needs. Are they preparing for long-term remote learning, or are they equipping students and staff with the tools to become more familiar with working online? Without a forward-looking assessment, schools may find that they outgrow their upgrade sooner than expected, wasting valuable time and resources. It’s crucial to frame this as an investment, as trends show that broadband needs, particularly in schools, are only increasing. Consider what equipment is needed to support high-speed internet – whether that be in schools once it’s safe, or at off-site locations where students can socially distance until then, including broadband-connected buses. Also worth considering is providing hotspots to students who may not have access to reliable internet at home. When implementing solutions, remain cognizant that the needs of individual students vary and that a one-size-fits-all approach will rarely work.

Once that foundation has been laid, productivity tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom enable remote education by allowing teachers and students to securely and reliably stay connected. Many teachers have found that the transition from in-person instruction to remote instruction via video calls is easier than expected, thanks to added benefits like file sharing, instant messaging and breakout rooms – solutions that match and even exceed in-person classroom abilities. Collaboration tools like these are typically subscription based, allowing schools to quickly roll out a remote learning environment for their students. Being cloud based, these tools also give educators more control, sometimes monthly, over their costs to provide students and effective platform on which to learn.

The growing digital educational landscape can also pose more risks for cyber-attacks and security breaches, establishing the need for cybersecurity assessments and solutions to prevent such breaches. Your ScanSource or Intelisys representative can provide cybersecurity assessments to better highlight a school’s vulnerabilities, identifying areas of weakness where solutions may be needed. It’s also worth reminding school administrators that not all collaboration tools are secure, but the proper network and cybersecurity solutions can work to minimize risks. Finally, an environment that was secured on a school network needs to be fitted for the home. For example, many schools use VPNs while on-site, yet few students can do the same while at home. Patches, antivirus software and firewalls can be installed so that students – and schools – are protected in and out of the classroom.

There’s no question that we’re moving to a more digital world, and COVID-19 has exposed the need for schools – just like businesses – to make the transition. Just as the virus has transformed our daily lives, it has also offered a nationwide case study on what it takes to move to remote learning, what the challenges are, and where the opportunities lie. These solutions aren’t just for keeping up during times of crisis; they’re for staying ahead and ensuring that future generations are given greater educational opportunities than ever before. Upgrading now may even be a more cost-effective solution, as districts are more likely to secure e-rate funding due to COVID-19. The prominence of remote learning will only increase; speak to your ScanSource representative to ensure you’re prepared to help more schools make the transition.