By Michael P. Morris, CEO, Topcoder and global head of crowdsourcing, Wipro.
Between the speed of changing technology and the workplace disruption brought on by COVID-19, a topic on the minds of public/private s,ector organizations is employee reskilling.
Traditional reskilling includes investing in retraining and skills development programs for current full-time employees. The philosophy is that many of the new skills they need to stay competitive and productive aren’t currently in-house.
You have good people—yet their skill sets are becoming obsolete, outsourced or overtaken by advances in AI. In fact, the World Economic Forum released a January 2019 study (Towards a Reskilling Revolution) that estimated if the US invested roughly $34 billion in reskilling approximately 1.4 million workers it could result in the up-leveling of those individuals to higher paid roles in areas of predicted need. This traditional vision of reskilling does make sense, but it’s still a linear move, rather than an exponential one.
The Value of Modern Reskilling
Work, technology and global workforce dynamics are changing: modern reskilling accounts for those changes as the evolved approach includes opportunities for retraining and continuous learning, while on the job and working from home. It includes teaching current employees how to wield other people’s skills to get work done using current methodologies such as crowdsourcing, as well as teaches companies how to better match tasks to available resources.
Modern reskilling is a more effective use of training investments for both the individual as well as organizations. Educators and businesses are investing in this strategy to drive the future of work because the technical expertise needed to just “keep up” can be hard to find. Modern reskilling transforms workforces from static collections of skill sets to flexible groups of people empowered to find innovative ways to get work done as quickly and effectively as possible.
People Fuel the Reskilling Revolution
The pandemic has further demonstrated how the passion (or “gig”) economy is the future of work. Instead of a top-down hierarchy that dictates employee tasks, in the gig economy, talented individuals choose the projects they work on and opt-in to the work that matters to them. Gig workers enjoy freedom, flexibility and community, and organizations have intelligently adopted a gig-approach for full and part time employees now working remotely.
By Jeff Elliott, director of product management, Jenzabar.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities into a remote learning model for the spring semester. Now, most institutions are considering innovative models for their fall semester, such as a mix of smaller, in-person classes and online courses. Because even an optimistic timeframe for a vaccine is more than a year away, these hybrid models will last long past 2020, forever changing the higher education landscape.
Support for Remote Workers is Vital
Much of the COVID discussion in higher education has centered around online learning, which is fitting since their purpose is to educate students. However, institutions have numerous departments that support the organization’s learning mission.
While online learning is not a new concept, with many institutions using it before the pandemic, remote working for staff was often just an occasional offering, not a full-time work-from-home model. Like other industries, a lot of higher education administrators believed that staff working in the same space was a driver for high productivity, especially for staff who worked directly with students. Yet, the spring 2020 semester has shown that location is not the only factor for staff output; technology, communication, and collaboration play immense roles.
With the pandemic, entire campuses must be able to support online capabilities. In addition to students, staff across admissions, advising, payroll, accounting, and other departments must be able to work from home. For example, Penn State recently stated that it will bring back staff in phases. The last group to return to campus will be employees who can fulfill work responsibilities remotely. Meanwhile, some employees may continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
While many higher education institutions already had remote capabilities possible for staff, others had to quickly adapt when physical locations were shut down in the spring. Many institutions were severely hampered with outdated operational models in which nearly everything was managed on-premises and could not easily transition online.
Engaging Students Outside of the Virtual Classroom
The difference between schools that thrive in the COVID era rather than muddle though is the ability to engage students outside of the virtual classroom. Communicating with students is crucial to their success, especially during these uncertain times.
Students want and need regular, relevant, and insightful communications. Schools should utilize a mix of email, text, and online chat solutions that students can access via their mobile devices.
Chatbots in particular can be highly advantageous as higher education becomes more digitalized. Institutions can help students combat anxiety brought about by COVID-19 by offering 24/7/365 access to services or personnel that can answer specific questions about health procedures, financial aid, event signups, and more.
Meanwhile, granting students the ability to register for classes, pay their bills, connect with advisors, manage academic plans, and more from anywhere at any time can help drive engagement and satisfaction.
While communication is critical, many students also learn and gain experience outside of the classroom. Positive interactions with fellow students and staff and participation in extracurricular programs can support long-term personal development. Institutions that can find ways to improve student engagement in these types of activities will see a much greater level of success.
From kindergarten to college, when parents send their children to school, they do so with the expectation that those children will be kept safe. Schools have long employed security tools ranging from security cameras and access control to bolt locks and metal detectors, but today’s technology has put unprecedented new resources at schools’ disposal.
Analog cameras have been phased out in favor of network cameras, and tools like access control technology have helped secure entry points and facilitate frictionless entry for students and staff. But while video surveillance and physical security tools have received considerable attention, there is another resource being deployed to secure schools and campuses throughout the word: audio.
Advancements in Sound Detection Have Changed the Game
You might be surprised about how often a security incident is preceded by a noise of some sort. That noise might come in the form of raised voiced, breaking glass, or even gunshots. Any or all of those sounds may indicate that a security incident is either taking place or is about to take place.
Today’s audio solutions can be trained to listen for specific sounds and relay security alerts to the appropriate personnel or authorities almost as soon as they occur. In the case of raised voices, school personnel might be able to arrive in time to defuse a situation before it worsens. In the case of breaking glass or gunshots, response time is even more critical.
Audio solutions can also provide a valuable safeguard against break-ins. Sensors trained to listen for breaking glass, slamming doors, or other signs of after-hours activity can raise the alarm, even in pitch darkness. If activity is detected in the middle of the night, the appropriate personnel can be notified, potentially giving law enforcement a valuable head-start on catching the perpetrator.
Especially when paired with video surveillance solutions, advanced audio can help security teams better understand what is actually going on—whether the responsible party is a burglar, a vandal, or just a bored student hanging around the school entrance.
Announcements Can Both Deter Crime and Safeguard Students
Any student is no doubt well acquainted with intercom systems. When I was in school, they were mostly used to announce morning updates or call someone to the principal’s office, but today’s intercoms are considerably more advanced.
They can be programmed to broadcast emergency announcements targeted to specific zones, allowing tailored broadcasts to keep students and teachers informed during an emergency. The ability to relay real-time information where it is needed most can make a big difference in the midst of a major security incident.
These announcements also have the potential to deter crime from happening in the first place. Criminals are often emboldened by the idea that they won’t be caught. If you can shatter that illusion by letting them know that their presence has been detected, many will abandon ship.
Modern audio solutions can be programmed to play an audio message in the event that a trespasser is detected, warning them that they are being captured on camera, or that the authorities have been notified.
While this may have the effect of allowing them to flee before law enforcement can arrive, it is well worth it if it prevents valuables from being taken or property damaged. Some solutions may even allow a security guard to provide a live warning directly to the intruder, further informing them that they are under active surveillance.
A Comprehensive Approach to School and Campus Security
Modern audio solutions are an invaluable complement to today’s advanced video surveillance, access control, and other security technologies. Whether the school in question is an urban elementary school or a rural college campus, the ability to provide security teams with an accurate and up-to-the-minute representation of what is happening at key locations and entry points is of critical importance.
As schools and campuses throughout the world look for new and innovative ways to keep their students safe, today’s audio solutions will be an important piece of the puzzle in any comprehensive security solution.
How might education change in terms of teaching strategy as a result of the coronavirus?
Most schools already had lecture-recording capabilities where many students were watching the talks online, and we expect a lot of this to continue even after the pandemic subsides. We’ve also seen a huge interest in pre-built curriculum systems like our ScholarRx Bricks which has more than doubled in usage since the pandemic started. The primary strategy here is to use them as part of a “flipped classroom” where curated pre-work is assigned before a live session where the instructor works with the students to apply what they’ve learned.
With regards to specific teaching activities:
Lecture-based classes can continue as normal online with pre-recorded lectures or using video platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams for live teaching. While video conferencing is not ideal, the breakout and chat tools can sometimes allow for better student engagement versus a traditional classroom.
Small group teaching is workable using video platforms, but not as fulfilling because of the lack of physical proximity in the group.
Teaching clinical skills is very hard–it requires hands-on contact, usually in very small labs. There are no good solutions for this as of yet.
Communications training is easier, but still problematic to do by video, since many miss nonverbal cues.
Clinical training in hospitals and offices is challenging given social distancing rules, disruptive disinfection protocols, and limited PPE. Additionally, many hospitals do not consider medical students as essential to care, limiting their access to patients. Many schools are using online clinical case training platforms, but that’s not a substitute for hands-on clinical education.
How might school education change in terms of virtual learning?
There will be more virtual learning, particularly in the non-clinical phases of training, as has been seen at undergraduate universities. This group of students has grown up with video and multimedia, so it is not a limitation per se. However, many faculty don’t have adequate experience in developing instructionally sound online learning experiences. This is where schools and individual instructors may look to curricular platforms like ScholarRx, which are designed from the ground up for digital learning.
In a higher education setting, concepts such as experiential learning, group interaction and student experiences are essential for learning critical thinking skills and honing problem-solving techniques. Unfortunately, ad-hoc distance learning programs at colleges and universities across the country are relying on traditional video conferencing and online presentations to replace in-person classes.
And it’s just not cutting it.
After scrambling to finish up the last academic year, higher ed professionals are under a microscope to do better this fall. After all, the cost of higher education hasn’t gone down, and the lackluster experiences parents and students alike have been anecdotally sharing among their peers aren’t painting a positive value proposition.
The New Normal Demands Better Communication and Collaboration
Schools, especially higher education institutions, have been slow to adopt new technology strategies and initiatives. Distance learning demands that colleges and universities step up the pace of embracing technology as the way to bridge the gap between in-class, in-person education and remote connectivity.
The first step is to recognize that putting slides online for self-learning is not a lesson plan. A video conference call is not a substitute for group interaction. These technologies completely disengage the remote student and do not come close to mimicking the classroom experience.
Most online classes today are just linear PowerPoint presentations of class lecture notes. Where this style of teaching may have worked in times past, rote learning and passive consumption is no longer acceptable. Simply screen sharing lesson plans doesn’t allow remote students to engage any more than watching TV.
Realizing that neither students nor educators want a lackluster learning experience, the teams at Vizetto and Baanto have created radically innovative technologies which enable groups of students to debate, argue, contrast different ideas and share thoughts naturally. It literally takes the distance out of distance learning by breaking down barriers that being remote causes and creates an experiential learning platform.
In what will likely be the most unpredictable and complicated school years on record, only one thing seems certain — with technology being such an integrated element of education (now more than ever) university, school and district IT departments will be expected to support their administration’s decisions. School technology staff will play a more crucial role than ever in creating and sustaining a successful educational experience for students.
First, the most important thing is to prepare for the students who aren’t comfortable coming back, and to be ready for a permanent shift in expectations. Humans, though they hate change, are adaptable. We’ve now acclimated to having virtual what we used to have solely in-person, and though many will want to come back, it would be detrimental to disregard the population that has established the expectation that they don’t need to leave home to learn.
Unfortunately, giving students the option to choose how they want to attend inherently means not giving teachers and school support staff the same choice. Of course, while we wish health and success to everyone, the likelihood that plans put in place in August and September will change before the end of 2020 is very high, and being prepared (mentally, at the very least) to deal with that, is the key to keeping morale at a remotely tolerable level.
For those who have staff at home there are a handful of other things to consider and have plans for. Foremost, security. A recent flood of ransomware attacks targeted specifically at schools have cost districts and universities tens of thousands of dollars or forced multi-day closures.
These attacks have only increased in frequency since the workforce has distributed onto less-secure home networks. One of the easiest ways to protect your institution’s private data is to ensure all staff members who are working at home are regularly performing their system updates and have some kind of malware protector installed.
If you own the devices your employees are using at home, you can administer the malware protection yourself for an added element of control over the situation. If you don’t, there are plenty of free options available for download. If your employees are downloading and administering their own updates and malware protection, it’s a good idea to update your technology usage policy to include the details what kind of update and scan schedule you’d like them to maintain.
As teachers prepare for classes to resume this fall, McGraw Hill announces the launch of McGraw Hill Rise, a new reading and math supplement with embedded assessment and personalization to help educators identify and address individual learning gaps for each student. The new solution is intended to help ease the transition back to the new school year, regardless of teaching format, and ensure that every student is prepared to succeed this year and beyond.
“The extent to which COVID-19 has impacted student achievement, though uncertain, is likely significant. Teachers now, more than ever, need a consistent, convenient and customizable toolset to help document time on task and individual student progress through key learning objectives – all to help close those gaps,” said Sean Ryan, President of McGraw Hill’s School Group. “The use of data to make informed and personalized decisions is critical in determining where students are during and after a period of school disruption. Rise adapts and targets to each student’s needs helping educators create a comprehensive, individualized plan.”
Curated from McGraw Hill’s proven content, Rise will be available through McGraw Hill’s single sign-on, and is powered by the McGraw Hill SmartBook 2.0 adaptive learning engine. Based on extensive research by McGraw-Hill’s learning scientists and technologists, SmartBook 2.0’s enhanced algorithms are built based upon advanced learning science principles that enable it to adapt to each individual learner’s needs, pinpoint and resolve knowledge gaps, and increase learning efficiency by moving knowledge into long-term memory more quickly.
Preliminary “COVID-19 Slide” learning loss projections from NWEA suggests that students could begin the school year with roughly 70% of the previous year learning gains in reading and less than 50% learning gains in math. Existing research shows that students experience an average of one-third to a full year of learning loss during a time of crisis or collective trauma. Many students will have gaps in their knowledge and skills at some point in their educational journey, but long-term learning loss doesn’t have to be one of the consequences.
With Rise, teachers will have access to customized student reporting dashboards and real-time feedback on student content mastery. Additionally, Rise’s recharge feature allows for asynchronous reinforcement of topics, allowing students to reach mastery of core ELA and math learning objectives at their own pace. This easy-to-use and flexible learning tool is expected to have an immediate impact on closing learning gaps in schools across the U.S. this fall.
The disruptions to our society due to the coronavirus pandemic include significant impacts to education. Universities and colleges around the world have had to adjust to the reality of remote learning, at least for the foreseeable future.
The nation’s largest four-year college system, California State University, announced in May that instruction will primarily be conducted online this fall, and many other institutions are following suit. It’s now estimated that 70% of students are currently engaged in some form of online education.
This shift to digital learning has introduced a steep learning curve that many institutions that were unprepared for. Schools are working quickly to not only build the curriculum and content necessary to support online courses, but to also build the distance learning infrastructure needed by faculty and students to ensure simple and seamless remote access to this content. The challenges are, how to do this at scale, and how to do it securely.
The need to provide distance learning, and to do it quickly, has introduced new risks for educational institutions while creating potential opportunities for cyber adversaries. Schools have long been a target for cybercriminals. According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Report, education continues to be plagued by human errors, social engineering and denial of service attacks.
The changes brought about by the pandemic only compound those existing challenges. Based on recent information released in the latest Global Threat Landscape Report from FortiGuard Labs covering the first half of 2020, education comes in third, only after telecommunications providers and managed security service providers (MSSPs), in the percentage of institutions detecting ransomware.
Making Distance Learning Secure
Cyber adversaries have refocused their criminal efforts to take advantage of the new remote work and education environment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re targeting the vulnerable devices and home networks of remote users looking to use those systems to open a back door into the core network.
This is evidenced by the significant increase in attacks targeting such things as consumer-grade routers, personal IoT devices, and components such as DVRs connected to home networks detected during the first half of 2020. Threat researchers are also seeing a spike in older attacks designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the often unpatched devices on home networks.
In fact, 65% of detected threats were from 2018, and a quarter of all detected attacks targeted vulnerabilities from 2004.
Naturally, the ability to securely support a remote learning policy is an essential component of any continuity and disaster recovery plan. However, to ensure that networked resources of colleges and universities, as well as those of remote faculty and students, are protected, these new realities need to be taken into account.
As school districts and educational institutions across the United States were hastily pivoting to virtual learning environments to close out the current school year, top education officials reportedly were sounding an early warning that a potential lingering of the COVID-19 threat could extend remote learning into the coming fall and winter.
Amid wholesale school closures, and the possibility that those closures could continue into the 2020-2021 school year to curb further spread of the virus, education officials were prioritizing remote learning capabilities.
“I’m really focusing much of our resources on the expansion and accountability wrapped around online learning and distance learning,” Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon told Maryland lawmakers, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Making remote learning accessible, user-friendly, reliable and secure for students and teachers for however long brick-and-mortar schools remain closed, and doing so in a matter of weeks, is no easy task for a school district or institution and its IT department.
But as scores of districts around the country are demonstrating (and as we at Windstream Enterprise have been witnessing firsthand in our work with education clients), a robust, well-protected remote learning program can be rolled out and sustained, provided several key digital infrastructure pieces and capabilities are in place, including:
By Daniel McGee, director of technology and library services, Laurel School.
Thus far, 2020 has been a year where the field of educational technology has been permanently altered. This year’s Covid-19 pandemic has brought challenges and confusion to daily life, with educational institutions pivoting to a distance learning model nearly overnight.
The impact of this shift has been far reaching, affecting the cadence and delivery of daily instruction, creating a new impetus for teachers to learn and upskill quickly.
The result is a watershed moment for educational technology that will cause ripple effects in education for this and future generations.
For private, independent schools, the conversations, processes, and procedures have been different from those affecting public schools, though the needs of students remain the same. In my role as an independent school technology director, the lessons of the past few months have been a series of dichotomous notions with a time for careful planning, while also being a time of flying by the seat of your pants; and notably, a time where rules are created, but also while basic tenets of educational technology are proving to be helpful guides. I have learned some essential lessons that are helpful now, and I see them as being helpful in perpetuity.
Lesson One: Select Familiar Tools and Technology
The first lesson is focused on the importance of educational technology leaders to select distance learning tools and topics that are familiar to teachers and students. Having a minimum of familiar, established systems for students, teachers, and families to access lowers the barriers to success and allows students to focus on learning what they need to know, not acclimating themselves to a host of new tools. During a pandemic is not an optimal time to introduce new tools if it can be avoided.
If a school has a learning management system (LMS) in place and is actively using it, it is a hard case to introduce a new system. The LMS is the stand-in for the physical classroom; just as physically moving a home or school is a disorienting process that requires acclimation, the virtual classroom environment fostered through the LMS should remain as consistent as possible.
Video meetings have become a staple of the distance learning experience. For schools using a suite of online productivity tools such as Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365, using Meet or Teams lowers the barriers of entry for teachers and students to begin using such tools due to the integrated nature of these video services within the larger platform.
Consistency is key in using any online tool, first in the selection of a single, unified tool for the school to use, and second in its use and deployment. Experts in online learning advise the use of a common template for teachers to craft LMS course pages, and students should have a consistent means to access their virtual classrooms via the chosen video conferencing platform.