On June 11, 2020, a group of individuals, schools and other organizations sent draft legislation to Congress that would establish a $5.25 billion emergency fund for families who don’t have internet at home. The proposed Remote Learning During COVID-19 Act would fund the build out of broadband connections to low-income households, provide students with learn from home devices and increase cybersecurity protections for school networks.
The money would be in addition to the E-Rate program which already subsidizes broadband investment within K-12 but has already reached its funding cap of $4.15 billion. Reportedly, the state E-Rate Coordinators’ Alliance also supports the new proposal.
The Remote Learning During COVID-19 Act is another reminder of the macro-economic impact we see across education, including significant underfunding for technology.
“As a parent, witnessing the abrupt and rapid changes taking place in our schools today is definitely unsettling,” said Christy Wyatt, president and CEO, Absolute. “That said, ensuring kids from any neighborhood, district or state have equal opportunity to learn, grow and connect with their peers is paramount to preparing them for their next generation of higher education and beyond. With Distance Learning programs now our new reality, the need for Internet connectivity, access to technology and increased cybersecurity will play an integral role in addressing the accessibility and socio-economic gap, or ‘digital divide,’ marginalized communities have been suffering from for many years.”
The proposed legislation is being introduced is a step forward Wyatt continued, but in the meantime, schools looking for how to best stand up, manage, monitor and measure their Distance Learning programs – and ensure devices and learning resources are accessible to every student – should look to best-in-class examples of schools and districts who have successfully implemented this program in their communities.
“Take for instance Duarte Unified School District (USD), who needed to ensure their students had access to not only devices, but also connectivity to teachers and access to online curriculum,” Wyatt explained. “They bundled together WiFi hotspots and devices, and ensured devices were digitally tethered to the district – giving them real-time insights into the location, health and safety of those devices.”
With a digital tether in place, Duarte USD can provide their curriculum designers with student engagement data and identify where there may be gaps in connectivity. Their holistic approach not only enabled students to have access to online curriculum, but also helped families stay digitally connected to friends and neighbors during this year’s shelter-in-place orders.
“Examples like Duarte USD are popping up across the country and lighting the path for how to successfully stand up these programs as IT administrators begin planning their fall hybrid/online learning strategies,” Wyatt said.
Read the Duarte USD case study.
Duarte USD Protects Students while Fostering Student Engagement with Absolute Web Usage.
COVID-19 forced a rapid, uneven adoption of remote learning in school districts across the country and around the globe. Absolute data shows escalating device use since students began learning from home, and growing vulnerabilities on devices that hold an increasing amount of sensitive data. Out-of-date Chromebooks and devices that, on average, are at least 2 OS versions behind are more common than not.
For more information on the trends occurring across distance learning and school owned devices in use now, go to our new Coronavirus Response Dashboard. The data is updated weekly.
IT is busy playing catch up this summer, despite continued uncertainty over what the new school year will bring. Absolute has a lengthy background supporting education generally, and distance learning specifically. To learn more about the resources we have available, check out the Distance Learning Solutions Hub.