The adoption of online learning, already one of the fastest-growing trends in education, was drastically accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Students everywhere, from first grade to college seniors, were forced to shift to virtual classrooms for their safety as well as their teachers’.
There are certainly many benefits of online education primarily the flexibility it affords. However, remote learning also presents new challenges, particularly with respect to data security, as well as “the digital divide.”
Regarding the former, cybersecurity issues begin with the hardware but certainly don’t end there. Learning from home is enticing for many, but any time personal devices are used to handle sensitive data, such as test scores and student information, they run the risk of exposing that information because those devices usually haven’t been configured and vetted as would a school-issued computer.
Contributing to these risks is that learning and implementing cybersecurity best practices, such as recognizing obvious phishing attempts, are still a work in progress for many schools and universities across the country.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are well aware of these weaknesses and have been using the pandemic to exploit the most vulnerable targets. In fact, between July and August of 2020, when it became clear that the school year would go, on albeit remotely, the average number of weekly cyberattacks per educational facility in the US rose by 30% over the prior two months. As news headlines have revealed, many educational organizations were caught unprepared, with some school districts even having to temporarily cease operations to halt cyber incursions.
Although we are now collectively better prepared, new risks and attacks continue. There are many strategies that school administrators must employ to safeguard sensitive data, such as training all staff in cybersecurity best practices, including the usage of VPNs to connect to school networks from home. And the district or university IT teams must regularly update all school-issued devices to ensure they stay current with the latest firmware, utilizing strong admin passwords.
Besides cybersecurity, another important conversation around remote learning is that of “the digital divide,” which is the acknowledgment that the tools needed to thrive in an online classroom, such as high-functioning computers and Wi-Fi, are costly. Hence, many students from different socioeconomic backgrounds often don’t have access to all the tools they need to thrive in a virtual setting.
By Mitrankur (Mit) Majumdar, vice president, Americas, Infosys.
With the ever-increasing threat landscape and hackers targeting all industries and services, cybersecurity incidents are on the rise across the globe. In fact, education sector accounts for almost 60% of the total enterprise malware attacks encountered.
A report from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization, provides some indication of the extent of the problem. The PRC reports 788 data breaches have occurred in K-12 schools and institutions of higher education that led to 14,871,122 compromised records since 2005.
With the rise of technology use in schools, these figures are likely to only increase. Schools cannot ignore the need to plan for cyber threats in their emergency operations plans. The education sector is quite vulnerable to attack for a couple of reasons. One, security controls in the education sector are usually not as stringent as enterprises. This is despite the fact that there is valuable data of students, teachers and parents at stake, for attackers to access and misuse.
The number of K-12 and university students using online channels and mobile devices has been growing steadily in the last couple of years. Since the second quarter of 2020, though, the Covid-19 situation suddenly resulted in a massive spurt in online education. Schools and universities across the globe moved online, almost overnight.
This sudden shift to remote learning led to a number of challenges, given that neither teachers nor students are aware of possible data proliferation avenues and continuous encounters with malware resulting in significantly increased vulnerabilities. Raising cybersecurity awareness among the many actors of education sector became paramount. Security controls also needed to be implemented to strengthen the infrastructure against attacks. Security – be it network security, asset management, endpoint protection, data security or others – is still a primary concern in a digital classroom.
Back to Classroom Concerns
With the rollout of the vaccine ramping up, conversations are beginning to percolate about what a return to the classroom will look like. While, physical health and safety concerns are certainly a number one priority, there needs to be enough thought given to the digital aspect as well. We need to consider the implications of hundreds of pupils bringing their laptops and other devices that may be infected with malware, viruses, and the like, back to their schools’ networks. If schools are not prepped properly, there could be some drastic cybersecurity implications.
Important priorities that need to be considered include:
The new offering provides school districts with a comprehensive identity management platform, allowing them to automatically provision core identity systems like Active Directory with the same level of automation and fidelity that they have come to expect from Clever and at a significantly lower cost than alternatives on the market today.
“More than ever, district leaders are counting on education technology to work smoothly, all day, every day. Sixty-five percent of districts nationwide have adopted Clever to make learning applications work seamlessly, and increasingly they have asked if we could bring that same power and ease to managing their core identity systems like Active Directory, Microsoft 365, and Google,” said Tyler Bosmeny, chief executive officer of Clever. “Now we can help districts connect both IT and curriculum systems quickly, securely, and at a fraction of the cost of alternatives with Clever IDM Enterprise.”
Clever IDM Enterprise delivers the following benefits:
Automation of repetitive manual processes: This new solution eliminates the delays and errors in account creation that are inevitable with manual processes, giving students faster access to the resources they need and reducing demands on overtaxed IT departments.
Data security and privacy: Clever IDM Enterprise helps districts protect student data and mitigate the risk of a data breach by automatically enforcing security policies across each application, protecting sensitive data, and closing security gaps from old user credentials and access rights.
Set up takes days – not months: The implementation of technology systems can be time-consuming and costly. For school districts who are rostered with Clever, onboarding Clever IDM Enterprise is quick and easy.
Fraction of the cost of other identity management solutions in the market: Because the Clever digital learning platform (including single sign-on, rostering, messaging, and analytics) is always free for districts, they have the option to add Clever IDM Enterprise in order to cover all of their identity management needs for a much lower price than that of other solutions.
“Clever and Identity Automation provide critical services for us, and this partnership is a gamechanger. A joint offering from these two market leaders can only provide immense benefit for all schools,” said Dustin Hardin, chief technology officer, Humble Independent School District in Humble, Texas.
“We have found a like-minded mission-driven partner in Clever,” said Jim Harold, chief executive officer of Identity Automation. “We look forward to helping more districts make technology work for them, not against—enabling them to focus their time and attention on what matters most: students.
Clever IDM Enterprise will be available for implementation in June. To learn more about the product, please visit www.cleveridmenterprise.com.
Response from Vikram Savkar, vice president and general manager of the medicine segment, Health Learning, Research & Practice at Wolters Kluwer.
Our education systems have been forced to be incredibly nimble and quickly adapt in the face of the COVID pandemic. The initial focus of key stakeholders across the education ecosystem has been rapid response: making existing digital tools widely available to educational institutions who could only connect with their students remotely, and quickly developing short-term new solutions to plug critical gaps.
It’s now clear that virtual or hybrid learning is likely to continue in 2021 and be a permanent part of our education curricula, even once the pandemic has passed. As a community, we need to be asking how we transition from a rapid-response approach to digital learning towards scalable, sustainable digital learning platforms that empower hybrid learning models in order to improve upon, rather than temporarily replace, traditional education environments.
In medical education, for instance, during the pandemic we saw a rapid uptake of digital anatomy tools and digital textbook and assessment platforms that had existed for some time but were suddenly in broad demand. Faculty and students alike discovered during this disruption that these tools were not just adequate, but in fact highly effective. As a result, most medical schools have indicated that they will permanently rely on digital tools as a core part of their educational approach into the future.
For providers, therefore, the task is to address this rapidly growing demand by rethinking our approach to digital learning tools. Today’s technologies met a critical short-term need during the pandemic; but it is tomorrow’s technologies that must address a permanent shift in educational approach. Does this involve AI-based adaptivity? Social learning? Data visualization? Time will tell. But what is clear is that, given the inflection point that the pandemic is proving to be, it’s a time to leap forward, not consolidate.
My name is Brett Ellis. I’ve built my career in higher education and EdTech through universities, nonprofits and global EdTech companies like Udacity. I currently work for the Center on Rural Innovation as a Future of Work Program Manager, Udacity as an IT Career Coach, and my own business as an education consultant.
The biggest question that EdTech leaders should be asking right now is “How can we support learners in gaining experience after they complete their programs?”
I speak to hundreds of bootcamp grads and online program students who have been searching for months after completing their programs. The problem is that they lack relevant industry experience and feel that getting a traditional job is the only way to do it.
The answer to the question is 2 things. Connecting with project shops or apprenticeship & having a more aggressive employer relations strategy.
Project shops allow non-traditional students and graduates to gain experience by joining a team of digital contractors with the guidance and mentorship of senior technical professionals. Many of these projects shops earn money by taking on projects, which allow these bootcamp grads to get paid and build their portfolios in a low-risk environment.
EdTech companies need to be very aggressive about their employer relations strategies. After all, hiring and placement rates do all the marketing for them. It also leads to higher motivation in students and program completion. An issue that many hiring professionals face is that they are not technical experts and most EdTech programs are not standardized.
Your average recruiter won’t have a clue what the curriculum looks like for any given online program, and it’s not their fault. They don’t have the time to research the program curriculum. They want to see relevant experience.
Most buyback companies have a grading scale for devices that take deductions for things like scratches, dents and cracked screens. For example, in a recent buyback scenario the buyback price for a used iPad 6th Generation ranged from $205 for a “Grade A” device in top condition, to $20 for a “Grade F” device with a broken screen or other component, a $185 difference. Multiply that by dozens or even hundreds of devices, and it can add up to a significant financial loss for schools.
Some school districts charge parents for devices that are badly damaged, which is difficult to enforce and can create some unpleasant interactions. Yet there’s a little known secret in the industry that can net school districts some serious money for very little effort: Apple Care+.
Districts that have iPad under warranty with Apple Care+ and don’t have a deductible can send damaged devices to Apple Care+ before the fleet is refreshed and Apple Care+ will replace the broken devices with brand new same generation iPad. The great news is that it doesn’t cost school districts anything to do this; they’ve paid for the service with their Apple Care+ fee.
A school district on the east coast of the United States refreshed a large number of Apple iPad and MacBook Air last spring. Before the refresh took place, the district’s director of technology asked a local Apple Authorized Service Provider to send approximately 1,000 broken iPad in to Apple Care+ for replacement. The school received new-in-box same generation iPad in return.
When traded in with other devices, these iPad were worth top dollar and brought the school district an additional $140,000 at trade-in.
Founded in 2015, Kiddom is an educational technology platform designed to improve the teaching and learning experience in remote or hybrid classrooms.
The technology enables a one-on-one connection between students and teachers, moderated class discussions, curriculum management, and much more.
This year, the company sought to add video chat and in-platform messaging. Head of product Nick Chen and head of marketing Jennifer Levanduski share how Kiddom’s centralized platform is ideal for students and teachers, and why one portal is key to engaging students, teachers, and parents.
How has Kiddom evolved since the pandemic?
Jennifer: Over the last nine months, we’ve added features that focus on our platform’s communication. Now, curriculum structure, assessment, announcements, and communication will all live in one place, enabling students and teachers to use only Kiddom rather than a Zoom, Canvas, and Clever account.
Stream’s chat API allows us to incorporate chat into videos and other places in our tool.
Nick: We’ve been going at lightspeed to build more communication functionalities into Kiddom. We didn’t build a chat solution in-house. The only way to achieve this in four months was to do a chat integration because we needed to do it reliably and at scale.
How do you moderate conversations in chat?
Nick: Our philosophy is: no student communication without teacher supervision. Students can’t just send direct messages to other students — we don’t want to create a problem. However, teachers can make a group, and students can interact under teacher guidance.
More communication flexibility will come hand-in-hand when we implement a rich moderation toolset.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, students from pre-K to higher ed in many rural and historically undeserved communities nationwide were struggling with the challenges of a lack of reliable internet access at home. In 2017, a report on America’s Digital Divide from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee found 12 million children did not have access to broadband internet at home, and these access problems were exacerbated in rural America, where only 62 percent of residents had access to broadband internet.
While in the classroom, these students had equal access to the internet as their peers. But the digital divide was laid bare by the fact that either traditional broadband service did not reach their home or that their family could not afford the costs of service. As a result, after-school access to computer labs or public libraries provided a stopgap for these students in many instances – but did not provide a long-term solution.
When COVID-19 sent students home for months on end – with roughly half of our students still not having returned to the classroom – the rise of virtual learning and the remote classroom threw a harsh spotlight on the inequity of internet access across the country. In many instances, students had to use unsafe and unreliable public Wi-Fi networks outside their homes to complete schoolwork and others simply have not been able to complete their schoolwork or attend virtual classes because of their lack of internet connectivity.
This is resulting in lagging education, as McKinsey & Company suggests that students on average are likely to lose five to nine months of learning by the end of this school year. For minority students, that gap is even wider – six to 12 months.
Local governments and school districts have worked to try to address this gap and find ways to stretch their budgets to support connectivity programs implementing new technology solutions to help bridge the digital divide and bring equitable access to broadband. With the passage of the CARES Act last year, the federal government provided critical access to funding that expedited districts’ abilities to put these technology solutions in place to establish the safe, reliable internet access their students needed without the risks of being on an unsecure, public network.
While video conferencing solutions such as Zoom or Webex are the obvious ways that universities have adopted technology, higher ed is increasingly moving toward technology that creates a more complete classroom environment, something that a video call alone can’t fulfill. Universities are adopting virtual workspaces like Bluescape that integrate all essential applications into one visual plane of information, providing a common operating picture for both educators and students.
Within a virtual workspace, students and educators can operate tools like Zoom and Google Docs at the same time, allowing for easy dissemination of materials for educators and a more holistic learning experience for students. While a professor is presenting slides on a Webex call, students can write down notes and ask questions, all in the same infinite canvas.
Virtual workspaces that enable dynamic collaboration regardless of location are transforming the culture of distance learning. Before, each remote student operated in a silo, with the only points of connection coming through email or a video call. Lectures were often static, one-way information dumps that failed to engage students.
Physical distance meant social disconnection and a drop off in tangible learning. But with virtual workspaces, students can participate in hands-on learning while feeling more connected to their peers and teachers. Using the right technology, distancing learning is shifting from a poor substitute to a viable option, and from a point of disconnection to a renewed learning community.
Biggest IT and Distance Learning Challenges
Different Learning Styles: There’s no going back from the virtual learning need that was created in 2020. It’s opened the door for so many different ways to access learning content and to expand the number of people that can participate in the learning process. We are no longer restricted to the sizes of the classrooms. Of course, there is no question that virtual learning puts additional burden on teachers and the teaching staff to accommodate these complex scenarios, but that’s one of the ways that better technology can help to fill the gap, making lesson planning easier, faster and more effective and more repeatable.
Students can generally be divided into three learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (hands-on). Yet distance learning often plays into only one style, leaving others struggling to digest information and keep up. A teacher could upload an audio file of a pre-recorded lecture that neglects visual learners. Instructors may opt to just share documents, diagrams, and notes, leaving audio workers behind.
Kinesthetic learners will struggle to adapt to a class where everything is suddenly virtual and intangible. It’s crucial that educators adapt their teaching methods to all three styles so no one is left behind. That’s why higher ed institutions should rely on virtual workspaces that easily engage all three styles. At the end of the day, each student learns at their own pace. This is where having access to Virtual workspaces can allow people to be more self-paced in their learning process.
While it may take one person an hour to glean certain material, that might take another person 90 minutes and a third-person 2 hours. Audio learners can benefit from the teacher’s voice over the video call, visual learners can see the documents and slides, and kinesthetic learners can engage their mind and body by taking notes or drawing diagrams, all within the same workspace.
By Bridget Duff, director of vertical sales solutions, education, Cox Business.
As the end of second semester nears, a lot has changed in education. Hybrid learning is the norm: students and teachers alike have adjusted to online learning in some form. Yet some things haven’t changed.
According to a recent study by Connected Nation, K-12 schools continue facing a sizeable digital learning gap, with 67% of students (31.5 million) currently in schools lacking the recommended internet connectivity speed of 1 megabits per second per student.
As we look to the year ahead, it’s clear that hybrid and online learning won’t be taking a back seat. If anything, innovation and digital literacy will become more important to educating students for the future. So, how can districts prepare to power the year ahead and beyond? By starting at the source – their IT infrastructure.
The Grace Period is Over
Earlier this year, the digital divide was more apparent than ever. Schools scrambled to connect students and faculty that lacked internet and personal devices at home. Teachers rushed to take their curriculums online and create an engaging learning environment. Districts struggled to maintain student success as absenteeism grew. In short, everyone was working around the clock to pick up the slack – but the time has come for a long-term solution.
A recent study by University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development and non-profit EdTech Evidence Exchange found that 86% of educators believe technology needs in schools will increase over the next three years. It also found that a similar majority think students will require more individualized instruction to meet their needs.
As we move beyond COVID-19, we should embrace the myriad applications for hybrid learning that can benefit the classroom. Now that schools have experienced executing virtual learning, they will likely find it useful for other situations – like inclement weather days, student sick days or to supplement in-class learning for students that need additional instruction and practice. Not only will the need for a robust infrastructure not subside, it will very likely continue to increase.