School districts are busy preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 school year as the Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in communities across the U.S. Education Week has published a state by state map of how schools are reopening and the majority are allowing individual districts to decide, though a few states have added stipulations. Most are beginning the year with full virtual learning only but with more than 13,000 districts nationwide, very few reopening plans look like another. The majority reflect the local impact of the pandemic – read this recent example.
One thing is unanimous – distance learning will play a more central role in delivering education this year. To help schools successfully transition to this new method, Eric Ramos, CTO at Duarte Unified School District in Duarte, California makes these recommendations on how to kick off a successful program based on his recent experience.
Get your community involved
As you work toward sustained distance learning processes, never underestimate the power of your district and community, says Ramos. When the pandemic first broke and our district’s students and teachers were asked to instantly adapt to a new remote learning phenomenon, the entire district rallied together to ensure all students had access to devices, online curriculum, and uninterrupted teacher-student connectivity.
Align your curriculum to reflect the new learning normal
When you change the learning environment that teachers and students operate within, you need to keep in mind that you should also implement changes in your learning curriculum. Prior to the pandemic, school curriculums were structured to reflect an in-class environment, which offers hands-on guidance and techniques for students. For many schools, this model may no longer exist for those that remain remote.
To ensure that the most important learning applications are available to students, implement a solution that can measure student engagement and gain insight into how your district is utilizing both new and old learning programs. One solution that has helped Duarte USD figure out which applications will be needed and in what priority order is Absolute’s Web Usage.
With Absolute, we’re able to receive reporting and detailed insights to help us drive better learning outcomes and identify valuable or underused learning resources. Additionally, it offers us guidance to help build a budgetary plan next year.
Ensure your student devices are secured
Schools should also work to amplify their security posture as internet-connected device activity increases. Even with security measures in place like website filters that prevent unwanted sites from interfering with learning initiatives, students are often able to bypass the filters in place.
Distance learning initiatives need to be anchored in trust – and the technology tools used should reflect that. Aside from eliminating risk of unwanted websites, schools that are lending out devices also need to be able to locate them. Especially if a device goes missing, IT departments have to be able to quickly track and trace devices remotely. For Duarte USD, we rely on Absolute for its tether to all our student devices and ensuring we have access to locate, track, and take control over any device in the event of loss, theft, or damage. So the message here is prioritize investing in tools like these that will ensure Endpoint Resilience™ and protect student devices, so they remain safe and free from risk.
Keep lines of communication open
As the new school year begins, administration should remember the importance of keeping all lines of communication open with parents and staff. Just because students are not physically in the classroom, it does not mean that collaboration and comradery should disappear. A good way to keep spirits up is by sharing weekly updates, notes, and announcements schoolwide. Don’t be afraid to get creative, commit to routine letters or videos and be transparent with staff and parents with updates.
By tapping into your local resources, adopting technology tools that efficiently and securely fit the e-learning model you are trying to achieve, and keeping open communication a top priority, a successful school year – regardless of location – is sure to follow.
For more insight on how COVID-19 continues to impact distance learning, take a look at our weekly updated dashboard for device use within education. To read about the success at Duarte USD, view the case study here: Duarte Unified School District Protects Students while Fostering Student Engagement with Absolute Web Usage.