Tag: education technology

How to Take the “Distance” Out of “Distance Learning”

By Avanindra Utukuri, CEO, Vizetto, and executive chairman, Baanto

Avanindra Utukuri

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.

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Securing Remote Learning For The College Crowd

By Renee Tarun, deputy CISO, Fortinet.

Renee Tarun

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.

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“Education-as-a-Service” is Suddenly Here… and There’s No Turning Back

By Matt Yeh, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Delphix

Matt Yeh

Nearly ten years ago, Marc Andreesen, one of the world’s most influential investors, famously proclaimed that “software is eating the world.” At the time, no one understood the magnitude of what that meant. But today, the world’s most powerful and prosperous companies are software companies that have brought a tidal wave of digital innovation and disruption to almost every industry from retail and banking to manufacturing and insurance.

And the next frontier for software? Education.

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic and mandated “social distancing” measures, the demand for digital services and software has skyrocketed. Schools across the country have begun planning for what just weeks ago was an unthinkable scenario: a fall semester without students on campus.

As educators prepare for what could be a dramatically different start to the upcoming school year, students and teachers alike need much more than “Zoom University” (which is going through its own coronavirus growing pains) in providing high-quality online learning experiences.

From K-12 to community colleges and public and private universities, the education industry needs to adopt a new playbook for the digital world. For example, the automotive industry is undergoing a tremendous shift towards digitally-enabled car-sharing, ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles.

In order to transform their road to success, organizations in this industry have had to transform how they leverage data and software to meet new business models.

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Long-Term Effects of Education and Technology Because of COVID-19

Responses from Adam Garry, senior director of education strategy, Dell Technologies.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

A: A likely outcome is that schools will realize that virtual learning should be a component of every student’s learning journey, but fully online will not work for most.  In the rush to move online, many educators are learning that what they had to do in 14 days should really take months. The K–12 school systems that already solved for access and moved toward blended learning had a much easier time shifting. As a result, we will likely see a strong push for access and blended learning going into next school year. School systems and higher education institutions will build for the future with blended environments as a core component of design and this will allow for the educator and student to have a smooth transition into fully online learning whenever they may choose.

Also, moving forward the technology leader will be seen as an essential part of the leadership team, if they haven’t been already.  Administrators are realizing that learning simply can’t happen without the support of IT and, therefore, we should anticipate technology leaders in education will have a voice to support all decisions that impact the vision and the day-to-day work.  These leaders will need to look beyond just the devices and think about the infrastructure needed to support learning anytime, anywhere.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

This is a question that came up on one of our recent CIO chats that we host and the answer is maybe.  I don’t think that it will be embraced as it is being designed right now because most school systems and institutions are rushing to get something created to support their learners and likely would do things differently with more time.

But I think we will see collaborative work happen across the education spectrum to create courses and curriculum that can be implemented in ways that take advantage of face-to-face and online learning. This will allow schools and universities to redefine how they use physical space and tailor more toward the actual learning.

For example, students working in a collaborative group on a project might need a smaller space in the library with a white board, laptops, internet connection, and a screen to share. While other students are in a lecture hall getting new information via a Socratic seminar. Also, we might rethink how we use projects and playlists to support personalized learning that defines mastery with application of learning, so all learners have an opportunity to show learning in unique ways.

There will likely always be an element of classroom learning at a physical school, however, that will likely look very different in coming years as pedagogy and technology continue to evolve in new ways to empower learners.

In-classroom learning remains essential until we can solve the issue of equity. We still have students and teachers that do not have the correct devices or broadband access for virtual learning. We’re seeing schools grappling with how to conduct special education or help ESL students with a balance of synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning.

Additionally, in-classroom learning provides additional social and societal benefits including school lunches, after school programs and a safe space for children in less ideal home situations.

It also remains essential because learners are social, and the physical building creates opportunities for collaboration and learning that wouldn’t be possible if we were all working in remote locations.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

I am not sure that the vision for the future has changed; I just think we have a new sense of urgency.  School systems and institutions are still moving toward a definition of personalized learning that gives students some voice and choice in the learning process.  This requires access to technology and the internet at home. If we can solve the inequities that exist today for our learners, then we will be able to shift to environments that provide true blended learning and remove time and space as the barriers.  Learners will be involved in competency-based models that allow them to learn at their own pace. The university will become a hub for life-long learning and students will move in and out based on short and long term goals that they set with an advisor. In the end, we will utilize technology as the platform to enable great innovation and shift the model of learning to meet the needs of all learners.

Long-Term Effects of Education Because of Coronavirus

Jon Roepke - Director of Product Management - Belkin International ...Responses from Jon Roepke, director of product management, Belkin International, Inc.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

The impacts from COVID-19 are yet to be fully understood. Among them, we are already experiencing changes to emergency planning protocols and training, planning for students, families tackling challenges to distance and online learning.

Although there are promising shifts toward experimental virtual learning efforts, the pandemic is forcing quick adoption of virtual learning on a wide scale out of sheer necessity. It’s one massive experiment where we’ll see the ways it can work, and the ways it doesn’t such as ensuring students actually show up to (virtual) class! One thing is for certain, students are going to become Zoom experts.

Another related outcome that we see signs of is a new wave of technology innovations and services catering to an always-on-virtual learning environment. Investors and VCs are re-evaluating where to put their money in this current climate and are adjusting investments to companies addressing core infrastructure issues. Education definitely fits that bill.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

We’ve ramping up distance learning adoption over the past decade. Challenges are largely tied to income and technology disparity where private or charter schools are able to more readily support this model. While distance learning could bring new and engaging ways to conduct a classroom, it also opens up broader questions about what will replace in-person social activities, virtual group projects, and more. Socialization is still an important part of growing up and education.

What’s next for education?

Over time, we will likely move to a hybrid mode. In-classroom learning serves a multitude of purposes that include crucial learning but also a place for kids to socialize with other children. If everything moves virtual and online it would still require some sort of supervision depending on the age group. There are successful virtual classroom models that work with smaller groups of students, resembling an alternate type of home schooling.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

The future has to be interactive. We’re already seeing momentum in edutainment with VR and AR experimental learning. We expect this to increase and have heard from teachers all across the country who are very excited about the educational potential these technologies can provide. No longer are students and their imaginations limited by what’s in the textbook – why read about the pyramids when you can be transported in front of them for a virtual field trip? VR headsets and gear will become as common as Chromebooks and tablets already are in the classroom.

Long-Term Effects On Education Because of Coronavirus

Response from Lauren Schmitz, founder and blogger, thesimplehomeschooler.com

I am getting ready to start my fourth year of homeschooling and I specialize in helping families get started with homeschooling.

I have seen a huge (rather predictable) surge in my blog traffic and email subscriber list since coronavirus – as have all of my homeschool blogging friends at iHomeschoolNetwork.

When the Coronavirus epidemic has passed, I think the landscape of education will have changed, but not as significantly as you are proposing.

Teachers and schools being forced to put together a framework for online learning will now be a blueprint for future snow days, blizzard warning, extended illnesses, or any other disasters. As opposed to scheduling school out into the summer, school will be done at home. And everyone will be much more accustomed to the idea.

But, classroom instruction will absolutely not go away. Parents will need to work, now more than ever, as we recover from the economic issues caused by the pandemic. As much as I wish homeschooling and distance learning could work for everybody, it’s not reality.

Younger kids especially need interaction and hands on learning to internalize new concepts such as reading and math. Older students may also struggle with the loneliness of distance learning and disconnect from other students and teachers.

What about students that can’t afford to have a computer at home? Or afford wifi?

What do we do with special needs children who require learning assistance?

What about students who depend on school to provide their meals during the day?

And let us not forget that school is much more than the academic side of things. What about sports? Band practice? Choir? Shop class? Student government? School plays? There are many things offered in school these days that could never be translated over a computer.

I have listened to people talk for years about how homeschooling could never work because of the “socialization” issues. I am an engaged parent who has tons of time to ensure my 8, 6, and 4 year old are properly socialized. Will that be true of every other parent? I don’t think so. For many reasons. Going to completely online schooling will continue the social issues that already plague our society.

That being said, I do think the rates of homeschoolers will continue to rise as they have for years. I work with parents who are struggling with making the final decision to start homeschooling, and I think coronavirus is the catalyst that will push many of them to finally start their homeschools. Once they finally start, they will enjoy all the benefits of teaching their children at home, and stick with it.

Parents who had no intention of homeschooling, will likely go right back to life as normal as soon as possible.

I do believe that colleges may use more of an online presence.- if a situation presents itself that requires distance learning. But I think colleges will stay predominately the same. Why? Now more than ever, adults want to be together. We want to talk, debate, bounce ideas off each other, get together after class, and form study groups. When the restrictions for corona virus are lifted, I can’t imagine colleges continuing the with the painful social distancing we have already endured.

Education’s Place Among Coronavirus

Kaine ShutlerResponse from Kaine Shutler, managing director, Plume.

Schools might be presented with a unique challenge in the short term: creating an e-learning platform, populating it with content etc. But long term, this system will provide students with more learning opportunities and we see this benefitting both the academically engaged students, but most importantly, the students who have struggled with classroom learning.

For parents, we hope that they’ll be more active in their child’s learning and we believe this will strongly improve caregiver/ student relationships, as well as student’s confidence as they engage with independent learning opportunities.

Despite these merits, elearning will not replace classrooms; schools provide a safe place for students where they can be mentored by teaching professionals and gain valuable social skills. All in all, we think elearning will support classroom learning, independence and will strengthen student/parent relationships as they play a more active role in academic development.

The Time Has Come For More Virtual Learning

Steven Hausman, Ph.D.Responses from Steven J. Hausman, Ph.D., president, Hausman Technology Presentations.

Your query is very timely and appropriate. I feel that the COVID-19 tragedy will only accelerate what has already become a trend. Let me address your questions individually. Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

I believe that the long-term outcome will likely be a move to even more virtual learning than that which currently exists.  This is the logical extension of the increased use of artificial intelligence in higher education. Current examples include:

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

I think that once the schools have experienced successful distance learning they will see that it has many benefits. For example, schools that have only physical classrooms are generally limited to students from a constrained geographical region. If students from outside that region wish to attend then they must usually physically relocate to the school. With distance learning, however, that relocation will no longer be necessary.

The University of Maryland, has recently rebranded itself from the University of Maryland University College to the University of Maryland Global Campus in recognition of the fact that it now has more than 90,000 students across the world and is one of the longest distance-learning institutions in existence.

In addition, distance learning can increase both the numbers and diversity of students receiving an education. It can also be of great benefit to the educational institution financially since it is conceivable that more individuals of different ages would take advantage of the learning opportunities offered.

Could in-classroom learning go the way of the dinosaur or is that panic-stricken hype?

I feel that classroom education will not go the way of the dinosaur in the near future but that we will attain a new equilibrium with a combination of both classroom education and distance learning depending on the subjects being taught. It would be difficult, for example, for a student to obtain hands-on laboratory experience for science courses with distance learning alone while an English course could more easily be taught that way.

What is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

The future of classroom-based learning is by no means terminal but it will incorporate many the new technologies that have become available. Some examples include:

Education and Technology During the Coronavirus Lockdown

Patrick FogartyResponses from Patrick Fogarty, director of technology, Jericho Union Free School District.

How are school districts and colleges and universities responding, and what technologies are they using to connect with students and even parents in an attempt to minimize the disruption? What have been the results? What works? What only causes more friction?

Once we knew a shutdown beyond one or two days was coming, we plotted out a distance learning program that incorporated software our teachers are comfortable with, like Canvas and Classroom, and new software, like Zoom and Meet, into a larger tapestry of services. The most challenging aspect of this was distributing hundreds of Chromebooks on short notice. Not only are you accommodating families, you also have to take care of your own staff, who are now working from home with their spouses and children also needing devices to use.

Are you moving to e-learning platforms? Which vendors are you partnering with to deliver these solutions?

Our district is fortunate in that we were already using Canvas by Instructure as our learning management system, and so we had a digital learning platform available from the first day we were shut down. Canvas has built in video streaming through their Conferences feature, and while it takes quite a while for recordings to be uploaded to course pages, it does provide a solid foundation for synchronous virtual instruction.

We are also supporting Google Classroom and Google Meet. The tools we can use are limited, because we are working to comply with Ed law 2-d (including the recently adopted part 121), and several popular streaming services are not currently compliant with these regulations. I think Canvas and G Suite have worked well for most students, though I wonder if using these platforms for Kindergarteners doesn’t create more friction than it resolves. We’ve had success using Zoom for administrative meetings and teacher-to-teacher conferencing.

Are your IT and service teams able to meet the need in the new era or have you been caught flat footed?

We did three things to slow the immediate crush of support needs: began using Slack as a team, created a helpline phone extension, and began using a dedicated tech support email address, since users no longer had one-click access to our ticketing system. I feel like those three actions, combined with staggering shifts a bit to increase the surface of our coverage, have helped us stay ahead of the support needs.

Lessons learned, best practices and guidance for others?

I think this is an amazing, perhaps unprecedented opportunity for us to reconsider how our schools work. Hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, and administrators are using new digital tools, flipping their classrooms, providing synchronous instruction remotely, and doing exciting, innovative work with little prep time.

If this encourages more districts to send students home with mobile devices every day, and if it shifts our perceptions of when, where, and how schoolwork is done, those are significant steps forward as we incorporate digital tools into instruction.

Long-Term Effect of COVID-19 On Education and Technology

Responses from Stewart Elliot, CEO, Modo Labs.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

There will be many long-tail outcomes of moving so much online so quickly.

We’ve noticed two. One is the urgent need schools have to keep their community informed and connected in real-time and the need for one source of truth. There are many communication channels, and messaging can quickly become fragmented.

They need to quickly distribute, get quality information directly into the hands of students, staff and community members with no delay and no technology hurdles. The app becomes the hub for everything in a distributed model. Schools are learning now that if they don’t have the central campus experience in an app, they need one. They need a very strong communications system in place for mobile devices, systems that use approved, branded, established applications.

The second is related. No matter how residential a campus was, everything is distributed now. Schools have academic, community and social needs they never imagined they’d have. With school professionals and students spread around the world, being able to make that feel like one unit still, in a way that reaches everyone but does not overwhelm anyone is very important. That lesson is not going to fade either – the need to be able to have one global community no matter where they are.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

Distance learning will continue and the campus app will be the cornerstone of learning. Connecting students to the information they need to be successful will continue and it will be more important than ever, as we are seeing now. Keeping students motivated requires real-time dashboards and personalized communications that will automatically nudge them to stay on track academically. Online learning will surely be accelerated post-CV-19 and there will likely be a deeper integration of tools that enable a modern, asynchronous approach to online learning. The mobile app—not the website or LMS—will be the critical connection of systems.

Online learning tools will change in that they need out-of-the box functionality and customization options, along with the ability to easily integrate with learning management systems, enrollment, and finance systems. We will see the app as the bridge between academic and campus life. A good app is as useful off campus as it is on campus.

Could in-classroom learning go the way of the dinosaur or is that panic-stricken hype?

It is too early to forecast that outcome, but I will say that we value community and the experience of being on a college campus. An app can build some of that campus experience digitally, and we have examples of those at Penn State and the University of Central Florida and a hundred other campuses.

But college is a life experience, and learning is still a human experience that we all crave. It is probably a safe assumption that in-classroom learning will return because of the genuine benefits to face-to-face engagement and team collaboration.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

We think things will become more connected, more personalized, and generally faster and more efficient. That has been the path of technology generally and we’ve seen it in education too. Soon, not only will class schedules and dining menus be customized for you, your learning will be, also – tailored based on your interests and past performance.

You’ll be able to study on your phone, take a test on your phone, ask professors or classmates questions and find out where to park for the basketball game, all in the same place, all in your unified experience. That’s where we are headed. Some campuses are pretty much there already.