As students continue to head back to school this year, school districts’ plans and learning models for K-12 education vary enormously. While many of these districts have returned to in-person learning, others have pivoted back to remote learning and fully virtual classrooms or implemented a hybrid option given the rise in delta variant cases of COVID-19 cases.
The shift to online learning in 2020 was both swift and unexpected, leaving most districts ill-equipped to roll out massive 1:1 programs. It was a monumental and unexpected challenge. As we’re entering another school year, it’s time to evaluate how well students and teachers adapted to the changes, and see what steps can be taken to ensure positive learning outcomes this year. September 15 is National Online Learning Day, making it the perfect opportunity to take a look at new research on the continuing trend.
Today, we know from the EdWeek Research Center, that 1:1 programs are now in place for 90 percent of middle and high school students and 84 percent of elementary students. Leveraging anonymized data from over 10,000 schools and districts, the recently released Absolute Endpoint Risk Report: Education Edition demonstrates how distance learning has been fully embraced. One telling factor is that among Absolute education customers, the number of deployed devices spiked by 74 percent between 2019 to 2020.
After students went home to learn, one of the first challenges was to get proper devices and Internet connectivity to those who needed it. Beyond that, educators needed an ability to keep students engaged. Like the rest of the world – and despite massive obstacles – students and teachers rose to the occasion. Between the fall of 2019 to the spring of 2021, online activity increased by 39 percent, while over the same period the number of devices used heavily (four to eight hours daily) more than doubled.
As students and teachers spent more time on their devices, was the education effective? Were students learning? Our study found that students and faculty used education resources more – up from 57 percent in 2020 to 60 percent in 2021. By contrast, the use of entertainment websites decreased from 27 percent to 19 percent. When all is said and done, despite the unfavorable conditions, students and faculty have overwhelmingly risen to the challenge and committed to learning.
The Endpoint Risk Report also found that 21 percent of online activity in 2021 took place outside established education or entertainment resources. While this could be perceived as a problem, it also reveals an opportunity to improve online curricula. Many students and teachers began performing appropriate learning activities on unauthorized sites to supplement a digital curriculum that had left many students feeling unchallenged, known as Shadow Education.
Amidst lingering pandemic concerns this year, and through whatever else the future may bring, technology continues to play a critical and growing role in the modern classroom. Online learning is here to stay, at least in some form. Understanding how to take advantage of these technologies and streamline online activity and device usage is necessary to optimize the educational experience and, for administrators everywhere, justify their current and future plans for technology investments.
Absolute Web Usage gives education IT teams valuable insights, enabling them to know what students are doing online, detect inappropriate usage, and monitor the adoption of EdTech tools. To learn how schools can benefit from using Absolute Web Usage Analytics, see the story of Duarte Unified School District, which successfully deployed the solution to rapidly stand up, monitor, manage, and measure their distance learning program.