Category: Editorial

Higher Education Must Support The ABC’s of A Reskilling Workforce

By Michael Simpson, chairman and CEO, PAIRIN.

Michael Simpson

After completing high school in the U.S., most students are encouraged to take the traditional path of attending a four-year university with the intention of earning a degree and preparing themselves for a successful career. In fact, 88 percent of students say their main goal of going to college is to “get a good job” – a goal that has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently more than 50 million people out of work in the U.S., making the fight for any job right now that much harder.

The population of people looking for new careers is larger than ever, and they need support from education institutions to ensure they are as prepared as possible for the workforce and specific career pursuits. The problem? These jobseekers do not all have the same needs and goals, and therefore, education institutions cannot treat them in a “one size fits all” manner as they have done historically.

There is a systemic shift that needs to take place within our education system so postsecondary institutions can address the needs of these groups of jobseekers more effectively. For example, there are three types of jobseekers, also known as the ABC’s of the workforce: people looking for “any job,” people looking for a “better job” and people looking for a “career job.” Right now, our education institutions are not in a place to meet the urgent needs of our diverse, reskilling workforce.

The ABC’s of the workforce

People looking for “any job” want to understand their skills and how they apply to other careers, not just the role they currently serve. Millions of Americans currently find themselves in this category, looking for any job that will pay the bills. However, many people struggle to identify how the innate skills and experience they possess could be transferred to another career, and they need specific support to do so.

To support the unique needs of this category, education institutions and employers need to work together to offer short, COVID-resilient, job-specific training. This training needs to address the particular needs of employers in an industry, and should focus on quickly helping career workers to identify their skills and areas of success that can be applied to other areas of work.

People looking for a “better job,” want to make significant advancements in their career or are looking to move to a better fitting job. In postsecondary education, the continuing education and career services departments typically take on a role to help these students and career-oriented workers, but are oftentimes severely underfunded and understaffed. In fact, as the recession deepens across the country, universities are cutting funding to career services, making it harder than ever to service those in the “better job” category.

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Cybersecurity Is Getting Back To Basics: 3 Steps To Keep Schools Secure

By Bob Stevens, vice president of Americas, Lookout.

Bob Stevens

Fall 2020 has already proven to be a challenging year for school cybersecurity. While teachers and students work together to learn in new environments, bad actors are exploiting the situation to breach systems and steal sensitive information.

Even before students received their first report cards, we’ve already witnessed ransomware attacks targeting Fairfax County Public Schools, one of the country’s largest school districts, and sensitive information exposed by a breach to a Las Vegas district’s systems. As today’s classrooms expand to be virtual, personal mobile devices and school-issued chromebooks are increasingly playing a central role in how students are learning.

While cybersecurity awareness in education is growing, Chromebook, tablet and smartphone threats aren’t as well-known, or well-protected, as their desktop counterparts. Administrators, teachers and students need to understand that – all devices – including mobile devices – need to be secured. The good news is that schools can take measures to prevent and mitigate damage from cyberattacks. Here are three steps to help students, teachers and administrators stay safe.

Secure Commonly Used Devices, Like Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones

Cost-effective yet functional, Chromebooks enable students to attend class and complete homework remotely. In some ways, security is a strength of Chrome OS. First, it doesn’t allow anyone access to its kernel – the core part of the operating system – and run apps in isolation. Chromebooks also automatically receive regular updates to ensure vulnerabilities are patched. However, there are numerous threats, such as phishing, that Chromebooks are still susceptible to.

For many students that don’t have access to laptops or Chromebooks, the existing tablets and smartphones their families own are critical to learning remotely. But these devices are rarely top of mind in a school district’s security strategy.

Implement Modern Endpoint Security Across All Mobile Devices

As education via mobile devices becomes a new mechanism for learning, defending against these mobile threats is as central to a district’s security as protecting desktop or laptop computers. Districts can mitigate these risks with modern endpoint security that protect against phishing and web content, network-based, and malware. Modern endpoint security can stop both known and unknown threats from these sources, helping get a step ahead of bad actors.

Help Users Identify Overlooked Mobile Threats

Security solutions are necessary, but teachers and students should still have a basic understanding of the threats they face, especially ones that can be difficult to detect. For example, it’s relatively easy to identify a malicious phishing email on a desktop. But on mobile devices, common phishing tell-tale signs are difficult to notice or are nonexistent. Even the youngest mobile users need to be aware of mobile devices’ hidden dangers. This awareness includes familiarity with the risks of a simplified user interface and smaller mobile displays, both of which make it challenging to identify questionable links or websites.

While many users are familiar with email-based phishing attacks, many mobile phishing attacks now start via SMS or text, social media platforms, gaming, or third-party messaging apps. Once a device is compromised, these types of attacks can provide access to a device’s microphone, email, photos, documents, and phone logs.

Teachers and students must recognize threats from these sources so they don’t fall prey to attacks. All mobile device users should have a basic cybersecurity awareness and regularly seek best practices like researching a source for legitimacy before tapping on inbound links and never sharing personal information with strangers online.

Students and teachers are learning a lot this year, not just from the standard curriculum but also about technology’s role in the learning process. It’s critical that for administrators, teachers and students to understand that mobile security is a part of their technology education. Whether that means learning about the role of modern endpoint security as a part of a district’s overarching security strategy or better recognizing potential mobile threats, we can all walk away from the 2020 – 2021 school year better armed against threats in today’s increasingly mobile world.

Why Ed Tech Is Key To Avoiding Further Disruption In Education

By Graham Glass, CEO, CYPHER LEARNING.

Worldwide, schools and universities are now, like never before, dealing with a large-scale disruption in education. With restrictions still in place, many schools are still closed or functioning at a reduced capacity or with socially-distanced classes, which makes it challenging to have a stable schedule. Everyone is affected: students, teachers, other school staff, parents.

This unprecedented situation calls for a flexible hybrid learning approach in order to minimize further disruption and ensure that high-quality teaching and learning can continue. Hybrid (or blended) learning takes any classroom a step further to the virtual learning environment, but it still allows for face-to-face interaction and communication, albeit less than in the regular classroom.

Using all sorts of edtech (educational technologies) teachers can create engaging and interactive online learning experiences for students of all ages and across grade levels, provide personalized support, keep track of and assess each student’s progress, and so much more!

Theoretically, online education eases the job of teachers and enhances learning for students. Practically, it comes with a catch. Or more. First, there are so many ed tech tools out there, that it’s impossible for any teacher to test them all and see which ones are the best for their classroom. Secondly, the available technology is often misunderstood and underused, so results are, sadly, quite poor. Thirdly, and most importantly, transitioning to the virtual learning environment can be extremely hard for both teachers and students.

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Future School IT Network and Technology Needs

By Joseph Ferdinando, president, HotHeadTech.com

If the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has taught us anything, it is that the world is changing and that it is necessary that we change with it. Services once considered essential to everyday life have been shown to be non-critical, and entire sectors of the economy such as business conferencing and education have been revolutionized.

The use of IP technology has evolved from simply being a way to connect computers, and it has transformed into a means to connect people. Nowadays, IP technology finds use in all walks of life, but the sector in which it has the greatest potential to do the most good is undoubtedly education. IP technology, when leveraged in the form of voice and video communication has the potential to change schooling as we know it.

This can be achieved through its impact on improving security, unifying communications systems, streamlining digital media systems, and enhancing mobility.

Improved Security

The world is beginning to take data security and information safety more seriously, and IP technology offers a unique way to blend a variety of security technologies with embedded security in routing and switching platforms to give your school network the best possible protection. Some of the network technologies available to be leveraged by IP technology include:

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Doodle Study Reveals Digital Gap Between College Students and Faculty Is a Big Problem For Remote Learning

File:Doodle Logo.svg - Wikimedia CommonsAcademic institutions have traditionally been slow to embrace technology and provide students with access to the latest digital tools. Meanwhile, college and university students have been quick to integrate digital devices, tools and apps into their daily lives. A new study released b yonline scheduling platform Doodle reveals the true extent of the digital divide in education and how it may put college and university students on a path to academic failure in these COVID-19 times.

According to Doodle’s “Time Management in Education” study, the vast majority (65 percent) of college and university students are digital natives, using between six and 15 digital tools and apps on a daily basis.

Following this, 32% of students say they prefer to use an online scheduling tool to book office hours with their professors. That’s a healthy percentage of students with the desire to automate the office hours setup process. But it’s not what’s currently available to them, with 66 percent of professors still clinging to outdated methods and using email or syllabus listings to coordinate their office hours.

These findings prove there is a big gap between the digital-first behaviors of students and the non-digital processes used by professors. As further proof of this, an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of students think that their professors should use technology more in their day-to-day work. While this digital divide has been evident for some time and before COVID-19 came along, it now has the potential to negatively affect students’ academic performance in a remote learning environment.

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Dell Technologies: How Are You Responding To School’s Current Needs?

Responses by Adam Garry, senior director, education strategy, Dell Technologies.

With cases of COVID-19 rapidly increasing this fall, many schools have decided to continue a remote or hybrid learning environment instead of returning fully to the classroom. K–12 and higher education institutions must be ready to quickly pivot between remote learning and  classroom or on campus education, or provide a combination of both.

It’s easy to jump in quickly and select technology based on what seems to make sense in the moment, but the infrastructure and other technologies schools invest in will make a significant impact long term. Schools should start by creating a strategy that addresses these questions: What do we want teaching and learning to look like? Where are the resources? How do we make a model of this? This involves a combination of devices, infrastructure and professional learning.

We’re supporting higher education and K–12 by helping them unify their technological infrastructure to support daily teaching whether remote or in the classroom. This includes servers, data storage, network capacity, data management software and data security. Additionally, we are supporting technology transitions to ensure IT teams are up-to-date on new equipment and can support any backend or user issues if they arise.

How are you guiding them? What issues are schools facing with their IT?

Since the pandemic we have seen a considerable increase in the number of devices that have come online off the school or university network. This creates two challenges for these institutions:  make sure the devices are safe and secure when they come back on the network and make sure the network is ready for the additional device load.  The threat to education institutions is real and the FBI has now issued alerts around increasing ransomware attacks With an increase in endpoint users and network access points and generally stretched IT teams, schools can find it difficult to properly respond once an attack occurs. We always recommend that security is baked in, not bolted on, so security is integral to the technology itself.

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We’re Seeing These Investment Trends In Education IT

Response by Aaron Wertman, CEO, Schoolytics

Aaron Wertman

With the shift to virtual and hybrid learning models, schools have been struggling to keep track of their students online, regularly asking themselves: “What on earth is going on with our virtual students?”

Schools are desperately trying to understand which students are engaged and which students may be falling through the cracks. This problem arose because legacy learning indicators like attendance and behavioral data are inaccessible in a digital setting and many schools lack the infrastructure to collect and analyze this new digital learning data.

Much of the guidance we give to schools focuses on which tools and indicators they should be using to rethink measuring student engagement. Variations of “butts in seats” metrics are less useful in the digital environment, and many of the schools we work with have highlighted difficult conversations in parent conferences.

In one case, a parent reported that their child was online seven hours a day doing something on their device, yet internal metrics showed their course work completion rate is just 5%. It is one thing to measure how many hours a student is on a device, but an entirely different task to quantify how engaged a student is with learning.

Further, the digital divide complicates this metric when thinking about students who may have limited times when they can access a device or the internet.

Our leading advice to schools is to focus on students completing assignments in order to measure engagement. Measuring course work completion rate is a robust indicator with evidence-based research for identifying at-risk students and showing greater nuance in learning and progression than what attendance or minutes alone can offer.

It is a metric that can be used to measure not only individual student engagement, but also to identify trends across courses, subjects, grade levels, and schools.

Schools need to rethink what their student information system should offer. Is it just a place to manually enter student data? Or should it be a platform that serves educators and students by using data to inform instruction, best practices, and ultimately to guide action?

We believe that schools should be shifting from student information systems to student data platforms that enable different stakeholders to tap into the data they need safely and securely.

Finally, we are seeing the following broad investment trends in IT:

The Pandemic Exposed Education IT Processes For Many Educational Entities

Response by Mark McGuire, vice president of sales, Scantron Technology Solutions.

Mark McGuire

One of the key things we’re seeing is that district IT departments are now involved with all tool and solution purchases, including classroom-level items. Previous to the pandemic and the immediate and ongoing push to at-home learning, IT groups and leaders would typically only be involved with back-end purchases like infrastructure and 1:1 devices.

They’re now examining all hardware and software purchases to ensure that the new solutions can fit into their back-end infrastructure seamlessly. This often leaves them in a bind with regard to day-to-day support and routine maintenance tasks as their workload has increased, but their staffing budgets have not. They are looking to managed technology services to help fill the gap. We’re working diligently with them to identify the services they need and prepare targeted service engagements to help.

Another gap that the pandemic has exposed is in 1:1 initiatives, where every student gets a device. During the spring, larger districts snapped up devices, leaving smaller districts in a bind with regard to supply. They’re still struggling with their supply chains for hardware. We’ve been able to help with device purchasing, using our broader purchasing power.

We’re also discussing device-as-a-service options to help with their hardware needs, but that’s a tough sell in K-12 because of the way K-12 budgets and funding for IT infrastructure is handled. Most districts prefer to purchase rather than lease, as their student and teacher hardware budgets can be hard-coded into a capital expense model, rather than an operational expense model and district accounting can be slow to change.

Within that framework, network infrastructure and student devices to support remote learning are the areas where we’re seeing the highest spend as districts continue to work to support remote students and teachers.

With regard to funding, districts need to consider changing the way they fund IT. As noted above, districts tend to use a capital expense model for most spending, IT included. However, many of the most effective secure, modern IT offerings (such as device-as-a-service, cloud hosting, virtual desktops, MS/Office 365.etc) are based on an operating expense model, where hardware and in some cases software, is not directly purchased but is leased.

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Responding To Education’s IT and Technology Needs

Responses from Tapan Mehta, industry solutions marketing, Nutanix.

Education (both K-12 and higher education) has been impacted significantly becuase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational institutions and students around the world are trying to cope with the new norm whether that be via a hybrid learning model or in a completely virtual setting. In fact, the current pandemic is forcing global experimentation with remote teaching.

There are many indicators that this crisis is going to transform many aspects of life with education being one of them. The current pandemic could potentially have a long-lasting impact on both education providers and learners to deliver and learn in the new virtual environment. For example, do students really need a four-year residential experience? What training efforts are required for faculty and students to facilitate changes in mindsets and behaviors?

How are you guiding them? 

The suddenness of requirements to quarantine and social distance forced rapid shifts to online/distance learning with little time to vet all the options. We continue to work very closely with our education customers by providing the right solution to support the database, application, and security needs for learning in real time.

The ease of use of the Nutanix infrastructure platform enables them to provide media-rich course offerings in a secure and responsive environment, even as the number of students greatly increased. For example, we were able to help Florida Virtual School to immediately scale to the full 2.8 million students.

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How Are You Currently Responding To School’s IT and Technology Needs?

Heather Paunet

Responses from Heather Paunet, senior vice president of product management, Untangle.

This year has brought to light so many barriers from school districts, educational entities, colleges to universities when it comes to comprehensive IT security. One of the main pieces was secure access to online learning platforms. When every school, college, and university transitioned to remote learning many administrators quickly realized that this was going to create a large scale network vulnerability issue.

Typically, schools find that their networks are just as complex as large-scale enterprise businesses. With students on campus bringing their own mobile devices, smart classrooms, teacher devices and administrator offices, a school network can quickly get almost as complex as a network for a large city. Many times, personal devices are segmented onto a secondary network, minimizing any access a hacker may have to their main network, but also as a way to increase the bandwidth shared by other school-related applications. Another aspect of school networks is the segmentation of user groups, teachers being allowed access to certain items on the Internet, while students are closely regulated, blocking access to harmful content or flagging words that could potentially lead to something else, such as “bullying” or “self-harm.”

Each school network was built, tested, and audited to maneuver through the needs of students, teachers, and administrators – however, when everyone was sent home, these policies and protocols many times did not follow them. It wasn’t until schools realized how many students needed setting up with safe and secure access to school resources that IT administrators reached out to companies like Untangle to work through remote connectivity issues. IT administrators needed solutions for getting students devices that would help them continue learning, and use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to extend those safety protocols to these devices, regardless of where they were located.

How are you guiding them?

Untangle has long worked with school districts, individual schools, colleges and universities to create safe networking solutions for their students and teachers. We understand that access to a variety of VPN connectivity options, along with a multi-layered security approach, can reinforce the network and minimize vulnerable access points that can be exploited by cyber criminals. Once the main network consists of user-defined access, advanced web filtering protocols, and credentialed-access to any platform containing student data, using a virtual private network solution helps extend these to student, teacher, and administrator devices.

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