Virginia’s Loudoun County might be one of the most technology-rich counties in the United States, but not all parts of the county have access to broadband. To combat this, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) leadership turned to data to address the issue and ensure that all students can participate in distance learning.
“Much like other industries, those in the education sector are under immense pressure,” explained Heather Gittings, senior director, Global Industry Solutions, Public Sector and Healthcare at Qlik. “Many school districts that have opened their doors this year will face the threat of closing as long as COVID-19 is in existence. For schools that have chosen the route of distance learning, it’s created a new set of challenges.”
LCPS is one of many school districts that have implemented a distance learning program for the 2020-2021 academic year. An exception to this — according to the Washington Post— are the students who attend the district’s Monroe Advanced Technical Academy. Additionally, some student groups including special education students, English language learners, preschoolers, and pre-kindergarteners, will begin hybrid learning on staggered schedules in mid to late October. But, for the majority of students – those of whom are participating in distance learning for the foreseeable future – the responsibility to access and complete their classwork online is theirs.
“One of the biggest challenges school districts are facing is making sure that distance learning is feasible and accessible for students,” explained Gittings. “In every school district, there is a percentage of families who don’t have access to reliable internet in their homes, making remote learning impossible.”
To combat this, prior to the start of the school year, LCPS, in partnership with Qlik, was able to identify and triage WiFi hotspot allocations to students in need. LCPS first identified household data – including the number of students in each home and their grade levels — by way of a Google form survey; the data was then loaded into Qlik where visualizations were developed. After analyzing the visualizations, hotspots were distributed, enabling students to move forward in their school year. Using Qlik, the ability to identify households in need of hotspots and quickly contact and deploy devices was made seamless.
As long as there’s no vaccine, school districts will continue to re-evaluate how they choose to teach during today’s turbulent times, which includes online learning. For underserved communities and families, the ability to participate in distance learning may be challenged. This is where using data – to determine where assistance is needed – provides students with the tools they need for educational success.
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