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Schools Stay Flexible to Meet Hybrid Learning Challenges

By Johann Zimmern, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Education
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This spring as COVID-19 swept the world, nearly every school shifted immediately to emergency remote teaching and learning with the intent to provide a digital device to every student (1:1 learning). For too many K-12 districts, a five-year plan to embrace digital learning became a five-day plan. But 1:1 learning is very different than how most districted planned. This fall, many students are still learning from home, while others go into the classroom a few days a week or more. Other schools and districts re-opened for in-person classes only to have to revert to virtual after an outbreak.

Adapting and thriving in this unpredictable environment is going to be the topic of discussion at ISTE’20 virtual conference, starting November 29.

Flexibility and blended or hybrid learning will continue to be critical over the long term. Many schools are exploring instructional approaches and teaching modalities that combine face-to-face and online learning, offering some classes and activities in person, some synchronously and/or asynchronously online. With flexible hybrid instruction, educators can choose their preferred teaching methods that will help them keep students engaged and successful. Several districts allow parents and students to pick the most appropriate learning modality until the pandemic is over.

Using Tech to Support Flexible Hybrid Learning

Technology can play a critical role in delivering hybrid learning modalities. Many schools are expanding their on-campus networks to provide connectivity in parking lots, playgrounds, and athletic fields so students and teachers can spread out at the school site. Cities have lit up school buses with Wi-Fi and internet to chip away at the all-too-persistent digital divide. At times, it takes ingenious thinking to get students connected when they live in rugged or rural areas.

The shift to remote work and remote learning isn’t lost on cybercriminals, and may school districts are finding they need to beef up their cybersecurity to protect students’ digital privacy. That may mean stronger security controls from data centers to school sites and district offices to students’ and teachers’ homes.

Protecting the health and safety of people on campus is critical, and many districts are looking to leverage their wireless networks’ location service capabilities if an outbreak occurs. Location services can help maintain appropriate social distancing and room densities. Faster contact tracing can slow the spread of the outbreak and inform maintenance staff about areas that need to be deep cleaned.

Now is the Time to Plan E-Rate Funding

For most school districts, the E-Rate program is critical for funding network needs, and now is the time to start planning. The FCC made some major changes to the program for FY2020 and beyond.

Under the FY2021 rules, the Category 2 budgets for eligible network products including switches, wireless access points, and managed network services, will be completely reset. That means school and library IT leaders have a fresh start on planning their network strategies for the next five years. There’s no better time than now to start planning out how and when your district could use networking technology to support hybrid flexible learning.

Learn More About Networking Solutions to Support Flexible Learning

Talk with Aruba at the ISTE’20 virtual conference, taking place Nov 29 to Dec 5.

View our E-Rate FY2021: A New Cycle webinar on-demand.

Learn more about Aruba’s solutions for K-12.