Nearly a year into the pandemic what were once emergency measures is now developing into a long-term remote learning strategy. Stop-gap measures and systems that were pieced together now have to become part of a more robust delivery environment that is scalable, secure, and robust.
This article on GovDataDownload caught our attention because of the insights shared by education IT experts – NetApp’s Matt Lawson and immixGroup’s Rachel Eckert. In this piece, Lawson and Eckert outline the challenges, opportunities, and practical steps both higher ed and K12 IT leaders should be exploring to support remote learning for the long term.
Keep reading to learn about today’s priorities and tomorrow’s opportunities for remote learning.
Remote learning has played a crucial role in the recovery process during the global pandemic. It’s made it possible for students to continue their education and it’s allowed educators and staff to continue teaching, even if that process looks entirely different than it did a year ago. The adoption of remote learning has also pushed the education world to break out of its comfort zone and lean into an entirely different way of delivering on its mission. And given the impact it’s had on the education space, most experts believe some form of remote learning is here to stay.
Rachel Eckert, Manager – SLED, Market Intelligence with immixGroup, and Matt Lawson, Principal Architect for State and Local Government and Education for NetApp Public Sector, shared this sentiment in a recent interview with GovDataDownload. They both noted, however, that even though remote learning programs have now been widely implemented, there is still a long way to go before they are effectively woven into long-term educational approaches.
From a tactical perspective, Eckert noted that even though we are now five months into a new school year following the start of the global pandemic, many educational institutions at the K-12 level are still working to ensure reliable internet access and learning devices are available for every student. She also spoke to other hurdles like students and teachers learning to adjust to a hybrid flexible, or HyFlex, learning model ( a mix of both in-person and online classes), remaining engaged in the learning process, and the upending of student performance assessment, calling for a more modernized and data-driven approach.
“Educators need to learn to look beyond standardized exam scores like the SAT and ACT and trust tools like AI to help offer more holistic views of student performance,” Eckert stated. “Increased data access and visibility using modern applications will help drive that trust.”
Lawson built on these challenges from the standpoint of educational institutions themselves. He explained that while it’s understood that cloud migration is no longer optional but a necessity, grasping the different scalability needs of their cloud infrastructure and how that plays into cost optimization is a notable obstacle.
“Educational institutions have long been asked to do more with less,” stated Lawson, reflecting on his own prior experience as a technical expert for a large higher education system. “With the knowledge of how their cloud options can scale and how their data should be prioritized, educational institutions can continue those cost optimization efforts without sacrificing critical cloud infrastructure.”
Both Eckert and Lawson also confirmed what most education leaders know: cybersecurity efforts must remain a top priority. This is especially true as a more disparate learning environment brings sensitive data out far beyond a localized school network.
“It’s no longer as simple as securing the on-prem network for a school,” explained Lawson. “Educational institutions need to think about the layers of cybersecurity – the applications, the data itself, and establishing a reliable disaster recovery plan.”
With remote learning firmly planted in educational strategy moving forward, IT decision-makers have a more permanent and prominent seat at the table. “Technology has impacted every aspect of our daily activities, and education is no different,” Eckert stated. “For that reason, the CIO and their team are more closely looped in with decision-making processes and how they can affect positive change for the institution from an IT standpoint.”
Lawson echoed that concept, saying, “Closer alignment between business and IT objectives and their role in delivering quality education, positions institutions to make more technologically innovative decisions on behalf of their students and faculty.”
And with a more established role in decision-making, educational IT leaders can advocate for more technologies that will drive the growth of comprehensive remote learning options for students, like hybrid cloud infrastructures. The transition to flash architectures and the prioritization of cloud agility are areas Lawson predicts will become prioritized among educational IT decision-makers, as they navigate their migration to the public cloud.
For students, Eckert thinks the advent of interactive whiteboards and virtual reality will enhance engagement levels among students in areas like writing, science, and physical education, calling on AI and machine learning to make a more notable impact on education to support those applications. “Real-time digital learning tools are key in this shift,” she stated.
The Path Ahead
Because remote learning isn’t going anywhere, it’s imperative for educational institutions to think critically about how to set up remote learning adoption for success in the long-term.
Lawson explained, “The way I see it, there are three different paths of planning for educational institutions when it comes to remote learning: 1) institutions that are struggling with this transition and are focused on cost-optimization and surviving until some semblance of ‘normalcy’ returns; 2) institutions that have acknowledged that a new normal is here and they are ready to reshape their approach to education in a long-term way; and 3) institutions that see this pandemic as an opportunity to completely reinvent themselves and blaze the trail for the educational institutions of tomorrow. No matter the path you’re on, you’ll need the right cloud technology to support you on that journey. We’re here to help you determine what that technology looks like and how it serves you.”
You can learn more about the elements of successful long-term remote learning adoption by downloading this graphic.
This article was originally published on GovDataDownload on January 20, 2021.