By Mitrankur (Mit) Majumdar, vice president and regional head—services, Americas, Infosys.
Education has been caught between the tectonic plates of digital technologies and the once-in-a-century pandemic. The industry has been forced to transition to a virtual engagement model that it was unprepared for. But even before the pandemic, the advent of Massive Open Online Courses was driving growth in higher education and reskilling with enrolment in traditional postsecondary institutions declining.
Massive generational changes in technological and workplace trends are changing the definition of education itself transforming it into a multi-dimensional and pervasive opportunity, open to people of all ages and socioeconomic strata. The definition of the ‘student’ is also changing, who now expects anytime, anywhere, and lifelong learning.
Leave legacy behind
In this new paradigm, outmoded approaches to teaching and learning just don’t support the new demands and changed expectations. Even educational institutions that use technology, utilize legacy systems that work in a monolithic fashion and don’t support the new age learner’s journey. They are difficult to integrate with modern Software-as-a-Service applications required for the learning solutions of today and expensive to operate.
A vast majority of students are digital natives, which means they expect hyper-personal, imaginative, and on-demand learning experiences that are frictionless. While higher education institutions scrambled to ensure resilience with Zoom user accounts during the pandemic, that comes nowhere close to the user experience that students have come to expect. They are communication platforms and not Education communication platforms.
Another key element is the existence of complex relational databases that make it difficult to obtain the desired data that can be used for competitive advantage. Students generate data at every touchpoint and technology allows the education institution to map this data and create a genome of each student. This provides a 360-degree, unified view of the student by employing data and analytics helping in personalized inputs to drive necessary interventions for student success.
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: