Top Best Practices for K-12 IT Managing eLearning Transitions

Here are the top best practices to future-proof your learning environments for remote eLearning in response to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of K-12 education for the remainder of this school year – and potentially longer. Over 124,000 public and private schools in the US, and roughly 55.1 million students, are currently impacted by school building closures. Proactive school districts are thinking long-term about classroom management, device management, and how to best support students through these uncertain times.

For schools with a dedicated 1:1 program, the transition to online learning at home is more straightforward. Many of the same programs used within the classroom can be used remotely – to assign work, interact with students, and provide feedback. Of course, there are gaps, and gaps are where we start to run into problems. For schools without 1:1 programs, these gaps will be even larger.

The Pros and Cons of Free eLearning Resources

The uncertainty around COVID-19 raises many questions for school districts. How long do you need to plan for schools to be closed? How can educators provide engaging content as well as social interaction to students? How can resources be provided equitably to all? How do you manage long-term online learning without overwhelming parents who may be working at home?

We applaud the many school districts for trying to pull together resources for parents and for teachers. We also applaud the hundreds of companies offering digital content free to schools, teachers, and parents right now. Some of this is amazing and great and can be integrated into the curriculum easily without the need to sign up for any accounts. On the flip side, we do need to be aware of the risks associated with gated or downloaded software:

  • Do these services or applications meet the privacy and security standards of student privacy laws such as FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA?
  • Who chooses the software being used – and is the choice consistent across the grade, school, or district?
  • Who signs up for and manages student accounts?
  • Who installs and manages new applications?
  • For student-owned devices, who owns the associated software license and how are the licenses managed?

Without any guidance or support, teachers make decentralized decisions about software or online resource use that can lead to future complexity, for teachers, families, and IT admins, as well as risks to student privacy and security.

While you can restrict the ability to install new software or block websites on school-owned devices, restrictive measures alone often just lead to frustration – and such restrictions are difficult to extend to student-owned devices. The ideal approach is to provide vetted, approved, and properly configured resources to teachers and students before they are needed – or just as they are needed with a self-service option.

Future-Proof Your Learning Environment

The best way to future-proof your learning environment is to simplify at every opportunity. Choose one classroom management platform for all teachers in all grades to use, ideally one suited for multiple platforms (macOS, Windows, iOS, Chrome OS, Android). Choose one platform for math or literacy versus several, ideally consolidating across several classrooms or grades. One platform for video / audio conferencing, document collaboration, group chats, or gamified education. And a single, unified tool such as FileWave for IT Admins to manage all devices, users, and applications.

Simple Steps to Future-Proof Your Online Learning

  • Choose your tools wisely and communicate your plan – Plan, plan, plan. Articulate the needs of your teachers and your learners, research your options (look for tools that tick many boxes!), ensure they meet standards, and clearly communicate what you plan to use to teachers and parents. Devoid of updates, teachers will begin to “fill the gaps” in what they need, even if you do plan to give it to them eventually!
  • Simplify software distribution – FileWave’s patented file-level distribution, Fileset Magic, allows IT admins to create file packages to easily distribute software to devices (both school-owned as well as enrolled student-owned devices). IT Admins can control software deployment from their own device, on their own personal network, easily navigating connectivity past firewalls and NAT settings to distribute software individually or by Smart Group (such as classroom, grade, or school).
  • Self service – The FileWave self-serve kiosk allows teachers to download software to their own or to student devices without the need for admin privileges or even a shared network. For example, in light of the physical library closures, many teachers are turning to digital library apps or online reading programs. Either IT Admins or teaching groups can decide on applications that can then be licensed (including VPP) and configured, giving teachers the option to push to student devices as needed.

FileWave automates and streamlines K-12 endpoint management under COVID-19, significantly extending your IT team’s capabilities by allowing them to manage all users, devices, and applications from one console accessed on any device or network.

Remote Support and Remediation

With all these new tools for online learning, there is going to be a steep learning curve for teachers and students alike. It is inevitable that support requests will request. Remote support, remediation, and training are now more important than ever:

  • Accelerated professional development – Under COVID-19, we don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to professional development to support teachers in using new platforms or supporting distance learning. In the absence of formal presentations or guided training, IT Admins can facilitate video conferences or pre-record tutorials to assist teachers. We also recommend reaching out to vendors, who may be more than happy to provide this for you.
  • Asset monitoring – FileWave allows you to remotely monitor devices, users, and applications, even past the confines of your school network – which is incredibly valuable in light of COVID-19. Reporting can look at all devices, groups of devices, or even individual devices – which is key when it comes to geolocating devices that are reported missing. Remote asset monitoring is key to keeping your students and teachers productive with remote learning.
  • Remote control for support & remediation – If a student or teacher has a device that is not working, FileWave’s built-in remote control helps IT easily navigate firewalls and NAT configurations to investigate the problem. Once identified, FileWave can remotely deploy configurations, files, or patches. If the problem requires training, IT admins can take over the device to provide live training.
  • Self-healing – And finally, what’s better than having a solution that automatically resolves common issues? One of the most common tier 1 support calls relates to software that has accidentally been deleted or compromised. FileWave’s patented self-healing capabilities are like a “shield” for your apps, automatically reinstalling them to their current patch level if they are compromised in any way.

We’re committed to help support your school district’s COVID-19 efforts. Contact us to learn more about how FileWave helps school districts overcome the IT challenges that come with remote teaching and eLearning.

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