Getting students back to school is one of the biggest topics of concern and conversation right now. With the start of the traditional school year already under way in some states and just around the corner in many more, how can K-12 schools implement distance learning so that students and faculty thrive during this ongoing public health crisis. The team at GovDataDownload guided us through the Navigator 2020 Education Vertical Report that explores this paradigm shift to distance learning.
Read on to learn more about the best practices they identified that will help K-12 schools thrive in this unprecedented public health crisis.
Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, few sectors have been more fundamentally impacted than education. While facilitators, administrators, teachers, and students prepare for the return to school, behind the scenes many are asking what can be done to ensure the safe instruction of students and what technology can do to properly facilitate distance learning.
These questions formed the basis of the Navigator 2020 Education Vertical Report which shows that there is a clear paradigm shift towards distance learning. Students and parents participated in one of the largest pilot programs of our time when schools from K-12 to higher education sent students home to conclude their school year online. The lessons learned from that experience reveal that the future of education will rely on technology to effectively and safely facilitate communications between student and instructor.
The report highlights that among the issues facing educators and facilitators, cost of new technology and student accessibility are the largest. For K-12, cost is more of an immediate issue following the decrease in state revenue as a knock-on effect of COVID-19 control efforts. This budget shortfall has been partially offset by congressional action, specifically from the CARES Act, but significant concerns remain on long-term budget stability until state budgets begin to balance out.
John Morgan, Ed. D, Chief Technology Officer of the Capistrano Unified School District in California, described the cost of technology as, “the number one issue we deal with, especially now,” highlighting that existing education technologies are not optimized for distance learning. “Sometimes buy-in for new technologies or tools is tough to get. Technology does not magically create a better learning environment,” however in new technology there is great promise to “add a lot to a positive learning and teaching experience.”
In addition to cost, Diane Harazin, Supervisor of Instructional Technology for Prince William County Schools in Virginia, noted that some students will be unable to access distance learning software due to lack of internet accessibility. In her position, Harazin was tasked with closing this access gap for students, which she achieved by implementing programs to “set up [internet] hotspots” in parking lots around her district to provide students with the means to access lessons and lectures.
However, internet access is only one part of the accessibility issue. The report noted that the transition to a digital format will require implementing unified and standardized learning management software (LMS) to provide for the new interactive framework between teacher and student. While many schools have implemented standardized LMS, there remains significant concerns over students who are unable to acquire their own laptops and mobile devices that can access the school-specific software.
Student accessibility presents several opportunities for technology firms to provide solutions and by doing so, become cornerstones of the new education paradigm. K-12 and higher education will need ready access to both new hardware and software in the short and long-term to provide adequate levels of education with distance learning. Morgan highlighted that his district has benefited from being in “Google’s backyard,” as the tech giant has aided schools in the area. This assistance may serve to further ingrain Google technology into the new education paradigm and may showcase a potential pathway that other tech providers may follow.
The report also dives into several other existing issues of distance learning: cybersecurity and data privacy on shared networks, students engaging in academic dishonesty, and the eventual need to rework education costs incurred by students in the new distance learning format. While the report noted that there are several issues on the horizon, distance learning, the technology that powers it, and the innovation opportunities it presents are here to stay.
To learn more about distance learning and to access a copy of the report click here.