Originally published on Forbes.com
Bottom Line: Defining the perfect mix of cloud apps, platforms and secured endpoints to create compelling online learning experiences customizable to students' learning strengths is how schools are overcoming the challenge of virtual teaching.
There are over 56 million students in the U.S. alone who are relying on remote learning apps, platforms and autonomous endpoint security to protect them as they pursue their education. School districts, online educators and teachers quickly realized the move to 100% online classes could mean the end to outdated mechanized approaches to teaching. Eager to teach using technologies that tailor individual learning programs to every student's unique learning strengths, schools are combining cloud, e-learning and endpoint security with strong results. Combining technologies gives every student regardless of their socioeconomic background a chance to excel. The goal is to provide unique personalized instruction at scale using a teaching technique called scaffolding. Scaffolding stresses creating an individual learning plan for each student complete with reinforcement for each lesson.
Tailoring the latest technologies to the diverse needs of online learners is the easy part of creating an online learning program. Far more difficult is choosing the right endpoint security strategies to protect their identities, every one of their video conference sessions with peers and teachers and thwarting breach attempts. Parents, teachers, students and administrators all need to trust an e-learning platform to make it work. The bottom line is an e-learning platform needs to create and grow trust while being adaptive enough to meet students' unique learning needs.
Interested in learning more about how leading online educators are bringing together the latest cloud and autonomous endpoint security technologies to help students learn online, I recently interviewed Eric Ramos Chief Technology Officer at Duarte Unified School District and Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director, David Atkins, Director of Marketing and Communications and Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber. Duarte Unified School District (USD) serves the educational needs of 3,400 scholars at the elementary, K-8 and high school levels. The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) in Midland, PA, is one of the most experienced and successful online K-12 public schools in the nation serving over 12,000 students.
Together the group of education professionals provided valuable insights into how educators can combine cloud, collaboration and cybersecurity applications to create more personalized, effective learning experiences for students. David Atkins of PA Cyber says that their approach to e-learning is succeeding because they take a fully holistic view of the student, their family and their situation. "Our collaboration with the student starts from the very moment that there's interest in having some sort of cyber education. And we go from enrollments, all the way through any issues of that students could have, or the students family could have and take them all the way through graduation' David said. "We take the time to listen and see the student as a complete person."
The following are the key insights based on our conversations:
- Choosing to make cybersecurity the highest priority treats students as customers, protecting their unique online learning experiences while providing excellent access across all socioeconomic levels. That's when online learning experiences excel. What's impressive how committed the team of educators I spoke with is about making technology work as a catalyst to help every student achieve their educational goals across all socioeconomic levels. They're also the most advanced at tailoring complex technologies to deliver customized online learning experiences with PA Cyber serving 12,000 remote students at once. "Each of our students is different and they're looking to accomplish different things and they learn in different ways. We have a different classroom options that they can choose from. And we have a lot of different scaffolding options in place when it comes to our instructional platform, "Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber said. Eric Ramos, CTO at USD says that he and his staff "reach out to teachers and staff members and provide them with the latest cybersecurity alerts and make sure they are aware of how their autonomous endpoint security platform is securing every laptop and making their job of staying in compliance to security protocols easy." Eric continued saying that, "having an undeletable digital tether gives my staff, senior educators and me peace of mind, especially with summer here and the need to keep track of the Chromebooks out with students and families."
- The more resilient the autonomous endpoint security on the laptop, the easier it is to secure, upgrade and locate each of them if they're lost or stolen. Duarte Unified School District provides Chromebooks to students for use all year long, often also providing an Internet HotSpot as many students' families don't have Internet access. PA Cyber provides students a Dell laptop and an entire technology kit that includes printers and peripherals as well. Having an undeletable digital tether to every laptop makes it possible to keep every system up to date on security and system patches. Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director at PA Cyber, says that it's been very helpful to know each laptop has active autonomous endpoint security running at all times. Dean says that endpoint management is a must-have for PA Cyber "We're using Absolute's Persistence to ensure an always-on, two-way connection with our IT management solution, Kaseya®, which we use to remotely push out security patches, new applications and scripts. That's been great for students' laptops as we can keep updates current and know where the system is. Without an endpoint management solution on student laptops, it is very difficult to manage endpoints without that agent. So Absolute absolutely helps us with that as well. That's been a big plus." Eric Ramos, CTO, says that "Absolute has been great, especially when student calls in and says they can't find their laptop. I don't know where it is. It's lost or maybe stolen. We're able to pull that up, figure out the last time it got pinged and we can locate that usually. Nine times out of 10, the student finds it by next day by just having that information. So that's been crucial. It's always been something we love having."
- Standardize on a secure cloud platform that is flexible enough to support scaffolding or individualized learning yet hardened enough to protect every laptop connected to it via an undeletable digital tether. A major challenge both online schools face is keeping their cloud platforms adaptive enough to support students' varying skills yet also secure enough to protect every student online. Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director at PA Cyber, says that it's best to "keep technology as simple as possible for the students and families. Standardization is key, I think, with everything you do from a technology standpoint. Making sure that you build from the inside out from the core. Your applications and networks and making sure that that's consistent all the way to the endpoint, I think that's extremely important." PA Cyber's lessons learned creating a secure and adaptive e-learning platform makes the goal of providing personalized instruction for every student achievable at scale. Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber, explains how the school personalizes online instruction for every student. "It all starts when the student first comes to PA Cyber and we try to get an understanding of where they are and where they should be and where they want to see themselves, whether it's in a month or in a couple years, or when they graduate from our school. So one of the things that we pride ourselves on here at this school is allowing for multiple modes of instruction for our students," Jennifer said.
- Capitalizing on the excellent asset management reporting autonomous endpoint security solutions have, CTOs and senior IT directors are gaining new insights into how to improve learning effectiveness. Having resilient, persistent connections to every endpoint with an undeletable digital tether also provides invaluable asset management data. Eric Ramos of Duarte USD and Dean Phillips of PA Cyber are leaders in this area of e-learning today. Eric Ramos says that asset management and activity reports made possible by the autonomous endpoint platform he is using from Absolute makes getting prepared for senior management meetings easy. "During principal meetings, I'm able to pull up these reports and say, look, these were the goals at the beginning of the year to use these four products at this amount of time. And here's where you're at on a small window. Or you can look at it over time and saying, this has been an increase here, this is a decrease here, these sites are doing really well with it, these sites may be not. But let's now talk about what's working for you. What are your teachers liking about the particular program? Or, program aside, how are your results coming about?" Eric Ramos, CTO said.