Ensuring continuity of learning and open access to all in a changing environment.
The pandemic has accelerated technology adoption to support the now prevalent hybrid working models and has similarly impacted the education sector. Educational establishments have been endeavouring to ensure continuity of learning, in the face of ongoing disruption caused by the health crisis.
Remote learning has been deployed rapidly across many countries with unequal means and mixed results, and the tuning process is ongoing.
On the upside, millennials and digital natives are a willing and able target audience to embrace the transition to digital learning. Ensuring the right infrastructure is in place to enable a safe and effective environment, on the other hand, raises several disquieting questions:
- Have all students got access to the tools to learn remotely?
- Is the network protecting sensitive data shared by students and staff?
- Does remote learning include creative collaboration tools?
- Do educational establishments have the means to set up and support their networks?
According to a report by ResearchAndMarkets, despite the negative impact of the COVID 19 outbreak on the economy, the demand for EdTech and smart classroom solutions has seen an upward trend owing to increasing demand for e-learning, virtual classrooms, and other digital technology solutions for uninterrupted delivery of education to students across Europe.
Often, educational establishments don’t have in-house expertise and resources to select and acquire the best technology, to maintain it and upgrade for optimum results. Schools, colleges and universities need expert consultancy to orienteer in the complex maze of technology options available in the market today.
There are three fundamental areas where the education sector faces challenges today: network, security and community.
Education for anyone, anywhere, anytime is the new prerogative for education in the digital era. Every educational establishment serves a community of people and is duty-bound to protect it and serve its needs. Some of the most common challenges are:
- Cyber-bullying: intercepting attacks within the community and intervening to protect the victims is a priority to secure the wellbeing of the student and teacher population
- IT as a distraction: IT needs to be used to support the learning experience, rather than shifting the focus away from it.
- Accessibility: technology can help resolve some of the accessibility challenges experienced by less able students (for example through voice-enabled packages that assist students affected by dyslexia)
Fundamentally, the educational network’s main function is to secure a stable app experience. Networks supporting educational establishments share the following key challenges:
- Irregular traffic with high bursts (for example in between classes, when students have breaks). The challenge here is to ensure the bandwidth is flexible enough to cover those high peaks in traffic.
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) many students bring their own devices into school, laptops, tablets and smartphones. This is a challenge in terms of ensuring support, interoperability and protecting personal data on all devices.
- High bandwidth requirements – remote learning requires higher levels of bandwidth than are typically available. This is a challenge that affects the wider network rather than just the University, college or school campus area, down to the students homes.
Ensuring secure data access to students and teaching staff, both inside and outside the classroom is not a trifling challenge. Here is a sobering look at some of the key cyber security challenges surrounding education:
- Education is a primary target for ransomware attacks, due to the availability of large amounts of precious personal data, pertaining to students, teachers and staff. Ransomware attackers have noticed something that has drawn them to try their luck against this sector: education is no longer simply a public service and has become a business.
Universities have increasingly demanding customers who pay high fees each year for a place. Even a small disruption to the services these people depend on can harm a university’s reputation and tight business model.
- Privacy and security: ensuring personal data stays private and protecting individuals is a complex matter.
- Internal hacking: internal threats are not to be underestimated; students have been known to hack the network (to intercept exam papers or alter grades, for example).
If you are an educational establishment or you support one, seek expert advice to ensure you select the best solution to suit your needs and those of your students. Talk to a Nuvias channel partner!