Like many people, we’ve been asked to shift our face-to-face (FTF) classes to an online format. Generally, teaching an online class is something you approach thoughtfully. It’s not a matter of just uploading a few documents and calling it a day. Not all approaches that work well in a FTF format work well online. Plus, we’re asking students to adapt to a format they didn’t sign up for.
Prior to teaching a class online, there’s generally a checklist of technology provided in the syllabus. So, students know from the beginning what type of technology they’ll need and they can opt to either not take the class or get access to the technology. With switching midway through the semester, there may be issues of access to computers and reliable internet service for some students, all against a backdrop of a global pandemic and the fear and anxiety that inspires. So, there need to be alternatives and contingencies provided to students who may have more difficulty with making the switch.
There are a number of platforms that can support the switch to online instruction. Many textbook companies sell books that can be bundled with online platforms. While you generally must pay an additional fee to access the platforms in light of the pandemic some textbook companies are offering free access to their online platforms for those students who already purchased hard copies of books for their classes. This is a great option for faculty that are already using these books and need supplementation.
The website platforms are designed to integrate with the existing texts and can be used to switch learning online, similar to what happens in a flipped classroom (where content is learned online and then applied or integrated in the classroom). So, for example, McGraw-Hill has a system called Connect, which has interactive learning modules — kind of like flashcards — that walk students through material. They also have interactive activities that can be used to supplement course content.
For instance, in developmental psychology courses they can play a “game” where they make choices for animated characters and get to see the consequences of those choices. Similar options are available in other fields. For faculty that have used a traditional FTF format, this might provide a way to supplement course materials.
Discussion postings are frequently used, but unless you are very careful with how you structure them, they tend not to be very interactive or substantial. You get a lot of “I agree with so-and-so” type of comments which aren’t very intellectually stimulating. A different option I’ve used that works much better is online annotations. I use a platform called Perusall. It’s set up like social media, so students highlight a passage, and can then comment, ask and answer questions on, use emojis, link material, and “like” other students’ comments.
Generally, I find the discussions that result in that format are far more natural and complex than most discussion boards, I think in part because the format is familar to students. You can upload your own content for free, or Perusall has paired with textbook companies and students can purchase their e-books directly off there. Because of the pandemic, textbook companies have agreed that if you are already using their books (either electronic or hard copies) for a course, they will pair the books with Perusall for no added cost.
Another alternative to discussion postings is Flipgrid videos. With Flipgrid, you can ask a discussion question, but rather than answering in writing, students are asked to upload a video. It’s easy to do with a smart phone, which almost all students have. The videos can be set up in a grid, and you can provide options for length, and whether or not students can respond to each other in a sort of delayed conversation.
Zoom, of course, is also a great option. The free version allows you to hold a video meeting for up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes, and there are various pricing plans for other options. While actual conversations are hard if too many people are on a Zoom meeting, you can provide an online synchronous lecture, and even record if if someone can’t make the meeting time and wants to watch it later. You can also provide a chat bar on the side for students to make comments on as you speak. That can be more effective than just having everyone chime in with verbal questions.
By Zach Vander Veen, vice preisdent and co-founder, Abre.io.
When schools embrace a one device to one student program, they inherit concerns on keeping devices functional and lasting. What is the best way to provide support for occasional breaks, wear and tear, and the grime of daily use? Most school tech teams operate on shoestring budgets. They’re limited in their monetary and staffing resources.
Fortunately, students have the unique opportunity to support the infrastructure while partaking in a class that covers a wide variety of topics relating to technology. Around the country, schools that embrace 1:1 initiatives are learning to leverage learning opportunities for their students. We’re going to look into how Hamilton City School District supports 11,000 Chromebooks with students who participate in the Technology Support and Innovation class.
The class begins with a study checklist. Each small group of students has an objective and job broken into geographical regions of the school. One group heads down the hall to Mr. Becket’s class with a substitute cart of Chromebooks. They return a few minutes later with his classroom cart complete with several devices with cracked screens. The checklist comes out and they begin to walk through procedures. They clean, they repair, and they inspect all the while laughing and cracking occasional pop-culture jokes.
“Students are an untapped resource, and we use their talents and abilities to contribute to protecting the assets of the district, says Tricia Smith, Tech Director at Hamilton City Schools. “Students are interested in learning Chromebook repair skills. With the correct training and nurturing of 21st-century skills, our students have become an integral part of protecting and maintaining our student devices.”
Hamilton approached having a student Technology Support Team with a few objectives.
Support the district’s 1:1 program.
Provide learning opportunities for students.
Maintain an expect cost structure.
A robust framework was crucial to the success of implementing a 1:1 program supported by students. While it took some refining, the district settled on a structure that consisted of five key components.
TOPdesk, a leading provider of enterprise IT service management solution, announces that, because of its committment to serving schools, colleges and universities, it has secure partnerships with more than 23% of all universities in the U.K. In 2019, TOPdesk UK added nine new university clients.
Institutions such as Heriot-Watt University, the University of Central Lancashire, and the University of Kent signed with the vendor in 2019 to automate service and support, and enhance their service offerings to internal staff and students.
With the additional university clients added last year, a total of 37 universities in the UK now trust TOPdesk with their enterprise service management needs to; utilise the usage of the self-service portal, implement quick links and standard solutions, and visibility for cross-departmental working.
In light of this success in the sector, TOPdesk UK has formed an internal business unit to focus exclusively on serving the needs of its higher education customers.
Will Sibley, TOPdesk UK’s head of education sales, said: “I am always pleased to welcome universities to the TOPdesk family, and last year it’s was great to have welcomed so many excellent institutions of higher education.
“In 2020, we will continue our growth in this sector, while also focussing on strengthening our current partnerships with these educational entities to provide them with as much value as possible.”
TOPdesk develops, implements, and supports an enterprise service management (ESM) solution that helps universities and organisations efficiently manage the services they provide. Departments such as IT, HR, facilities, and library, and student services, can perform their work both collaboratively and separately with a single tool. TOPdesk is available as a local installation or Software-as-a-Service, and the solution can be tailored to meet every organisation’s needs.
TOPdesk has 15 branches worldwide: in UK, USA, Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, and Australia. Visit www.topdesk.co.uk for more information.
Tools4ever, a leading global provider of identity and access governance solutions, demonstrates its continual commitment to enhancing classrooms via EdTech with its yearly attendance at the Brainstorm Educational Technology Conference. The conference will take place from Mar. 1–3, 2020, at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, WI.
The Brainstorm Educational Technology Conference emphasizes a focus on connecting education IT technologists with EdTech vendors, providing networking opportunities to make long-lasting connections that can endure for years. Tools4ever will be found at Booth 205 for quality EdTech conversations and networking opportunities.
In addition to developing new connections, Tools4ever will be live-demoing its cloud-based Identity Management and single sign-on solution, HelloID, throughout the conference. HelloID is widely used by hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities throughout North America to bring power back to the classroom via seamless, secure access to EdTech.
By providing students and staff with a user-friendly dashboard containing all of their approved applications via single sign-on, HelloID eliminates wasted, unproductive time and truly makes the classroom a “bell-to-bell” experience.
Brainstorm is making its mark on the EdTech community and is quickly growing in popularity among attendees. This year marks the second year in a row that Brainstorm has made it to the Top 5 of Forbes’ Innovative Conferences list.
“BrainStorm is one of the premier events for EdTech staff and Tools4ever is excited to be a part of this conference to meet with our district and vendor partners. With more than 20 years of experience helping districts plan and implement their identity management strategy, this year we are looking forward to showcasing our innovative cloud identity solution, HelloID, designed to help districts move towards a more secure and modern experience for single sign-on, MFA and provisioning,” said Drew Olson, sales manager, Tools4ever.
Brainstorm attendees — covering IT directors, tech coordinators, system and network admins, desktop techs, and more — can visit over 120 technology-focused sessions, network with peers in the K20 community or visit vendor booths for hands-on demos of the newest innovations in the EdTech space.
Response from Gary Hoberman, CEO and founder, Unqork.
IT leaders are focused on technologies that are intuitive for parents and teachers to use on any device, from anywhere. New York City’s Department of Education’s new CIO Anuraag Sharma said it well: “Our classrooms must be equipped with the modern-day tools and technology our students need to succeed.”
Leveraging cloud-based platforms is key to achieving that. By far, the shift to cloud has been a huge benefit for educational institutions. According to AWS, 96% of the top research institutions use AWS in some way. This is really laying a foundation for new innovation in education
What are your greatest concerns?
Legacy code —in education and in the public sector generally—is a millstone around innovation’s neck.
Keeping existing systems running sucks up scarce IT resources, and the people who know what’s needed best—teachers and administrators—can’t help, because they can’t code.
Unqork enables institutions to leverage everything they can from existing systems, and our no-code tools puts digitization into the hands of the people who know what students and parents need.
Large school districts are especially burdened with many different disconnected systems and multiple logins for teachers, administrators and parents. This makes communications between these constituencies even harder – keeping in mind the end goal is helping students be successful.
How are you addressing the most critical problems (and what are these problems)?
Related to legacy code and also the ability to find and hire new engineers, at Unqork we are a no-code platform that allows educational institutions to build in a completely visual environment. In fact we can switch or upgrade technologies and users don’t even know it.
Traditionally college information systems are siloed because of organic growth and complexity over a long period of time. This condition causes a fragmentation of information related to student and faculty data which can lead to inefficiencies in supporting students.
With educational programs becoming more accessible to a larger population, an online format is one way to reach more students, more often.
With the growth of online systems in higher education, like what we offer at Calbright College, the need to access data real time for faculty and students alike is paramount.
I believe in 2020 we will see the evaluation of platforms that have crossover appeal from other industries that are consumer and business focused in order to bring a modern, high-tech experience to Higher Education.
Rich student records that are accessible by multiple departments connected through cloud systems would allow any data attached to the student to be used for college purposes without passing the student to other departments.
This paradigm shift will ultimately accelerate student acquisition, support, and ultimate completion of their educational goals and beyond.
As higher education institutions compete for prospective students and look to improve offerings for those during scouting, registration and on campus, universities are already using innovations such as artificial intelligence-enabled teaching assistant programs and advanced data collection and analysis to gain an edge.
The IT environments on which universities depend are most often hybrid and multi-cloud, and because of all the new technologies should be available 24X7. Think about course registration system that is down exactly as everyone is trying to register.
From a cybersecurity perspective, the university’s security teams must work under the assumption that a successful attack will occur, and ensure the organization’s ability to recover its systems and data in a very short time from such an event;
One pressing area of improvement is assuring the ability to recover your data. One of the most alarming scenarios of a cyberattack is when both the data and its backup are destroyed in a hacking incident, thus leaving the organization with no way to recover.
This could be a result of a ransomware attack where encrypted data has been propagated to the recovery copies or because the attacker stole credentials allowing the deletion of both data and its backup. An attack with such consequences can derail any organization, leading to severe business outcomes.
We see many organizations looking at automating cyber resilience configuration assessments, whose aim is to ensure that recovery and backup copies of data are kept in a secure and isolated manner while meeting cyber-recoverability configuration best practices and compliance with regulations and standards and security baseline requirements.
These objectives are achieved using automatic and continuous processes of knowledge-driven IT configuration analysis to ensure compliance with vendor and industry best practices, and detection and repair of deviations from best practice.
The impact on reputation, operations and financial resources from a successful cyberattack can be wide-ranging and, hence, devastating. From data loss to extensive downtime, your IT staff and senior management team carries the heavy weight of responsibility.
So, if you don’t have sufficient expertise in-house, try to outsource, because the cost to reputation alone, if sensitive data is compromised, will make that investment viable. Check what systems are connected to the internet and if they don’t have to be, disconnect them, in order to reduce your exposure to cyber-attacks.
Make sure you back up your data regularly, and ensure you can restore from backups fast. Once you verify that you can recover from an attack, then start implementing some of the protections that are necessary to keep your data safe. Last but not least, train all your staff, make sure they understand how easy it is to unwillingly upload malware.
Additionally, email service is still the most common delivery method for malware which means that the human component is still the weakest link in the security chain and that’s because they don’t know what to expect, what an attack looks like, etc.
Employees should be educated in regard to cybersecurity, and business executives should begin using training platforms for that. Also, ensure that all employees access their work email from secure devices, preferably not their personal devices, they don’t open unsolicited emails or download suspicious attachments.
Kivuto, a provider of academic digital resources, recently released the results of its innaugural academic IT survey, exploring the complex challenges being faced today by IT departments within higher educational institutions.
Kivuto, in partnership with University Business, surveyed technology leaders from universities and colleges to get a better understanding of the challenges and complexities of managing and distributing academic digital resources.
The survey findings highlight a number of key challenges. Procedures that vary by department or by product, unintegrated systems, and limited visibility into product adoption and end-user satisfaction rates all add to the burden faced by academic IT management. This burden will continue to grow as more and more software moves to the cloud.
Among the key findings of the survey:
• 86% of respondents said the lack of integration between systems and workflows is the biggest challenge to managing and distributing digital resources.
• 67% of respondents were concerned by their lack of visibility into the rate of digital resource adoption and use at their institutions.
• 84% of respondents are concerned about compliance when it comes to distributing digital resources.
Ryan Peatt, chief product officer at Kivuto, said: “Shadow IT, decentralized licensing and distribution models, in-house systems, and manual workarounds have compounded the challenges that IT departments face when managing digital resources.
“Quite simply, they don’t know what they don’t know. It is not uncommon for an academic institution to have varying models for purchasing and distribution, nor is it uncommon for these processes to live on different campuses or even within different departments, making it impossible to have visibility across all channels in one central place.”
Providing a safe and secure environment for children to learn and grow is naturally a high priority for schools. Today’s schools face the challenge of not just physically securing the premises, but building an environment that fosters a culture of learning and acceptance while balancing the expectations of a diverse set of stakeholders—including parents, faculty, staff, and the students themselves.
Fortunately, the integrated approach to security exemplified by today’s technology has put schools in a better position than ever to improve not just physical security, but day-to-day operations and emergency preparedness.
An Integrated Approach Can Improve More Than Security
“Physical Security”—when it comes to schools—used to mean locks on the doors. Over time, it has taken on new meaning, with many schools adding security cameras and others placing a resource officer on duty. Schools that wanted to put an increased emphasis on security didn’t have many tools available to them, and those that were available—such as metal detectors—were generally burdensome and imprecise.
Today’s security solutions are considerably more advanced. Surveillance cameras alone have undergone something of a digital revolution. In the past, even schools with considerable camera deployments could rarely afford the personnel necessary to effectively monitor those camera feeds—after all, even the most responsible and observant individual can’t possibly be expected to notice everything that happens across a dozen monitors.
Surveillance cameras were generally used to record incidents to be reviewed after the fact. Contrast that with today’s IP cameras, which can be equipped with advanced analytics tools capable of detecting security events as they happen and raising the necessary alerts as quickly as possible.
In fact, even using the word “camera” sells today’s surveillance technology short. In many ways, today’s cameras are the ultimate sensor, and can be equipped with applications that record far more than just the visual spectrum. Thermal cameras are monitoring the heat spectrum.
Radar detectors are identifying movement where none should occur. Audio monitoring can detect glass breakages or aggressive voices. And each of these can be integrated with a broader security system capable of generating real-time alerts to the relevant internal or external authorities.
Schools will also be looking beyond the camera in 2020, particularly as integrated solutions become increasingly capable of supporting other types of related initiatives. Adoption of access control technology will continue to grow as schools leverage this technology to secure building entrances, leveraging video intercoms to vet visitors in a secured vestibule implementation.
Although there are potential privacy issues still to be resolved with tools like facial recognition, similar video analytics tools can provide a valuable new way to flag unauthorized individuals before they gain access to the school.
Communications will likewise remain essential to day-to-day operations—as well as proving critical during emergencies. Interoperable technology that enables bi-directional communication from classrooms, handheld radios, and public access solutions provides a clear benefit to schools, particularly as the technology can be federated to law enforcement when needed, allowing for direct communication between authorities and those on the ground.