Every school is on their own digital transformation journey. Some are focussed on ensuring students have access to a laptop or tablet, others are digitising lesson content, and some are using big data to create individual, personalised learning plans.
Right now, global conditions are pushing the limits of all these plans. All schools have been forced to change quickly and transition to online learning. In our experience, this challenge has been received with gusto. Educators, networking vendors and IT departments across the country have quickly banded together to ensure the education of young Australians is not hindered amid COVID-19 mandates.
What many of us have known for some time is now much clearer for all. In today’s highly connected world, staying connected doesn’t always require us to be in the same physical space. We can be engaged, present and productive, virtually.
Simplicity is essential for students and educators alike
Schools can help their students and faculty stay productive and connected in the midst of isolation by providing them with the same access and digital experience they would receive while on campus, without the hassle of complex IT configuration.
Every student’s experience when remote learning might be different with considerations for what device they use, the physical environment they are in, and the speed and reliability of their network connection. For schools transitioning to online learning, it’s extremely important to allow for variables and ensure that systems work in a variety of environments.
The teacher presents a different challenge. A single student who misses a class can catch up with help from their teacher, but a single teacher who can’t connect might affect hundreds of students. Rather than cater for many variables, the teacher’s critical need is consistency. They need a quiet, uncluttered space, a reliable and speedy connection and access to all the resources needed to connect with students.
How best to achieve this for a teacher who is not a network engineer? The solution should always be user-friendly and intuitive. Similarly, gaining access to school platforms and tools remotely, should be plug and play.
In many cases, educators working remotely will not have the ability to setup, install and troubleshoot complex networks. In these cases, Remote Access Points (RAPs) are a means to extend an office network into a remote workplace or home office. RAPs come preconfigured, so a user can simply plug into any existing Internet connection and they’re set to work as though they are inside the school. The same Wi-Fi or wired experience with the same security and access they would have on-site. This allows them to plug in computers, use a laptop or even a telephone extension or printer on the school premises.
Alternatively, Virtual Intranet Agent (VIA), a simple VPN tool, provides secure network connectivity for laptops and mobile devices. By using either a RAP or VIA, school IT departments can rest assured that faculty will have the secure connectivity they require to view or edit student data.
Keeping teachers and students productive is critical right now, and high performing, secure networking systems could be the difference between a student repeating their final year or going onto university.
Over a centralised cloud network, IT departments can easily overcome common issues remotely. They can automate simply tasks and monitor their remote users, just as though they were in the office. This means your teachers can focus on their students and not the tech – feeding digital resources and learning programs to remote students.
Global collaboration and creating a new normal
Unlike many other industries which are built on fierce competition and secrecy, educational institutions around the world tend to be more collaborative, learning from one another. After all, each are working towards a common goal of building the next generation of experts and leaders.
Technology has enabled educators to better pool resources, share content and cross significant geographical boundaries. Paper textbooks are being substituted out for online resources which provide up to date content in real time, reflecting the latest research findings and knowledge. Printed exams are transitioning to online assessments, allowing for more rapid yet comprehensive analysis of each students’ results.
We think of remote learning and digital classrooms as less personal than a face to face experience. In fact, the digital nature of the student-teacher connection is exactly the opposite. Online learning solutions provide a more individual experience for each and every student. Educators can track each student’s performance and provide a tailored learning experience for every student. A quiet student, struggling to keep pace may have been lost in a large group classroom, yet now can be quickly highlighted and helped with activities that target their specific needs.
No matter the reason that a school implements a remote learning protocol, technology advancements are helping to bridge the digital and physical worlds. Experiences that were once only thought possible through in-person interaction can now be had without physically being in the same room. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts are facilitating instant virtual discussions, while live streaming platforms allow announcements and lectures to reach all students in real-time. Recorded lessons become digital assets, for later consumption and for sharing with students across the world.
Students will be logging into their school Intranet platforms from home computers, phones and tablets, as they would from the computer labs at school. What’s crucial, is educating staff and parents on ensuring their home Wi-Fi solution is secure, high performing and reliable, so teachers and students can download digital resources and participate in virtual discussions without friction. Key features of a strong home network include sufficient Internet bandwidth for consistent connectivity; Wi-Fi coverage throughout the home to support roaming and multiple users; and the ability to prioritise critical users and applications (such as Zoom calls over Netflix).
Remote learning capabilities are being fast-tracked across schools around the country. Now is the time for networking vendors, school leaders and IT departments to be working more closely than ever before to innovate and transform traditional education. The results will help determine the ‘new normal’ for future learning.