U.S. students wrapping up their 2020 summer vacations face uncertainty—remote learning or in-person classes? While early optimism envisioned schools returning to normal by the end of summer, COVID-19’s continued spread has meant the start of the school year will look very different than previous years. Many schools have decided to begin the year with virtual learning, with USA Today reporting nine of the top 15 school systems—including those in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Houston—will be planning to begin the fall semester online. Yet other school districts have opted for a hybrid approach, where a portion of learning will take place remotely.
Whereas in the spring, when educators sought short-term solutions that would enable them to simply finish the school year, these latest developments confirm that remote learning will likely remain a large part of U.S. education for many months. The news may come as a disappointment for school administrators and educators who were already struggling to adapt to a virtual environment, but thankfully, there are today many technology solutions available to help bridge the gap to online learning.
Top Three IT Concerns for Remote Learning
In gearing up for the school year, administrators may be asking themselves what considerations they should review to ensure they’re building successful virtual learning environments. These are three concerns to keep top-of-mind.
1. Internet Access with Mobility
According to the Education Department, 9 million children lack internet access at home, making it difficult for them to use virtual learning platforms and connect with their teachers remotely. With many e-learning platforms and tools hosted online, every student should have access to a tablet or Chromebook/laptop, as well as a reliable internet connection. For those students that don’t have a home Wi-Fi connection, MetTel offers secure 4G Mi-Fi mobile hotspots so internet access is never an issue.
2. Upgraded Systems
Often access to devices isn’t enough—they need to be able to function as well. In the spring, a common complaint from educators was that the laptops or devices they were given were outdated, and their operating systems could not run platforms like Microsoft Teams that were being used to conduct lessons. Upgrading your software, hardware and networks can help remove many of the barriers that prevent educators and students from getting the most out of their tools.
3. Security & Compliance
Before devices are provided to students, they should also be assessed to ensure they have the latest security protections and restrictions—for example, limiting the type of apps that can be downloaded—and are compliant with local and federal regulations. This can help protect the school from running into legal issues, as well as student data from falling into the wrong hands. Many technology solutions already provide these options—for example, MetTel’s SD-M offers network-based controls on mobile devices, even mobile hotspots, to satisfy compliance and restrict students from accessing certain websites.
Procuring & Rolling-out Remote Learning IT Solutions
At MetTel, we are currently consulting with several school districts to help make their operations more agile and ensure a seamless move from physical to virtual learning. We’re providing cellular-enabled Samsung and Apple tablets and Chromebooks to students, as well as world-class connectivity and cloud-secured mobility. In addition, MetTel’s “two-minute drill” provisions mobile devices with mobile device management, security, and key learning applications within 120 seconds of device activation, sparing school districts’ IT departments from hours of prep for each students’ device. Knowing that e-learning is impossible without connectivity and pre-configured devices, it’s critical that these technology solutions find their way into the hands of the schools and students that need it most.
While the move to remote learning for the fall presents educators with several new challenges, technology providers are here to ensure that they and their students can safely connect and use the right tools to ensure a smooth transition. With the right planning and flexibility, schools can find a balance that will make this “new normal” feel more comfortable for everyone.