On-site connectivity used to be simple—your school’s technology infrastructure made it happen like magic. But now that COVID-19 has required millions of teachers and students to move to a distance learning model, connectivity has become more complicated—and all the more critical. After all, without connectivity, distance learning becomes difficult at any level—K–12 or higher education.
Here are some connectivity best practices from schools that made the leap to distance learning during the recent COVID-19 online migration.
Invest in access.
The immediate surge in distance learning has drawn new focus to internet access, or lack of it.1 Some students have reliable home Wi-Fi, others don’t. Some schools have Chromebooks, others don’t. Ultimately, the proverbial digital divide isn’t a technical challenge; it’s a harsh economic reality. When weighing connectivity options, educational decision makers often find themselves faced with the cost of devices and connectivity. The consensus is that investing in a distance learning infrastructure is a powerful way to help ensure that all students are connected equally.
Compare connectivity options.
Wi-Fi hotspots are generally considered a convenient but short-term connectivity solution for distance learning, since they pose reliability and security issues. When comparing connectivity options, educational institutions find that wireless connectivity provides a widely available, reliable and secure option for distance learning connectivity.
Make security a priority.
Teachers and students aren’t the only ones moving to distance learning. Hackers and fraudsters know that lightly protected distance learning environments offer easy access to vulnerable students and staff. Choose a connectivity option that ensures security at the device and network level.
Teaching (and learning) can be hard enough without adding connectivity issues to the workload. Your distance learning option should provide dependable connectivity, applications and services. After all, a reliable network helps everyone get a great learning experience. Choose a trusted provider with a strong record of dependable connectivity, as well as easily accessed support capabilities.
Keep it simple.
Your connectivity solution needs to be as simple as possible for students and teachers, since technical issues distract from the learning experience.
Manage your platform and devices.
Connectivity gets distance learning started, but connectivity without control can create educational challenges—the online equivalent of bad classroom behavior. Platform and device management add a much-needed layer of control that keeps it going in a focused, productive way. For example, mobile device management can disable device features (such as camera and app store), filter the web or lock down devices in single- or multi-app mode. Look for a solution that makes management easy, with a single portal to view and manage all devices.
Evolve if necessary.
Many schools deployed distance learning quickly and under pressure. However, it’s important to evaluate your connectivity after using it. Is it reliable? Does it provide integrated security? Are your students having trouble connecting? Are Wi-Fi hotspots not providing reliable access? If you’re having connectivity issues, consider evaluating your options—including widely available wireless plans.
Be ready for the future.
The COVID-19 era is seen as a shakedown cruise for distance learning, one that is giving school administrators, technology officers, teachers and students a lot of insights into what works best—from connectivity to pedagogy. Be sure to track this hard-won knowledge and use it to improve your distance learning infrastructure and model, so you’re ready for whatever the future might bring.
1 According to National Center for Education Statistics data, more than 9 million children lack internet access at home, https://usafacts.org/articles/internet-access-students-at-home/