How Is Distance Learning Going?
Virtual Schools Face (and Are Rising Up to) Enormous Challenges
Now that the schools are reopening for in-person and distance learning, or a hybrid of both, what challenges are the school districts and the parents facing? On the brighter side, what’s working well?
Schools Facing Tech Issues, Cyberattacks, and Outages
School districts who opted or were forced to start the new academic year remotely are already reporting several issues. Technical problems, system outages, cyberattacks, and other issues have all disrupted the start of the school year.
During the second week of September, various media outlets reported a few prominent examples of the kinds of headaches school districts in several states are facing:
- Texas: Just as more than 200,000 students began virtual learning, the Houston Independent School District’s website went down.
- Florida: The Miami-Dade school district has experienced dozens of cyberattacks.
- Virginia: Arlington Public School district students were unable to connect to their classrooms due to a large volume of traffic.
- Connecticut: Public schools in Hartford postponed the first day of classes because of a system outage caused by a ransomware virus.
- Pennsylvania: During the week following Labor Day, Philadelphia schools had login issues.
- Washington: Students in Seattle had difficulty connecting to text chats and camera feeds.
- North Carolina: Technical glitches also marred the return to class in North Carolina, including a statewide software problem.
Videoconferencing Platform Overload
The unprecedented burden on videoconferencing — and the infamous Zoom crashes in particular — deserve a separate mention. The most recent crash of this popular videoconferencing software happened in August, when some schools were already reopening for distance learning. Users couldn’t access Zoom meetings and webinars. The issue has been resolved since (you can check out the operation status of Zoom’s features here).
What’s Causing the Problems?
It’s not that all 13,000 school districts across the country aren’t trying. Education experts most frequently cite a lack of preparation and expertise for online learning. Those are the symptoms of a larger problem — lack of official guidance from the top, on both state and federal levels. It’s largely up to school districts to secure contracts, find the platforms to use, train the educators, and perform a myriad of other tasks associated with online learning. The lack of coordination, communication, and insight into best practices has some schools struggling to come up with their own plans.
Education leaders mostly agree that technical difficulties should be viewed in light of the pandemic. That is, they result from the unprecedented scale and volume schools faced while implementing three types of learning (online, in-person, hybrid). Within months, schools had to learn from their experiences from last spring and streamline processes for the fall.
In order to prepare for the fall, schools had to:
- develop virtual learning systems supported by multiple platforms
- build and maintain the infrastructure to back up platforms
- train faculty and staff
- find technological resources and offer tech support to both parents and students
And, as difficult as it was — and continues to be — many schools are rising to the challenge.
Virtual Learning Can Be a Time and Money Saver
Online learning is not without benefits. Apart from the health benefits of limiting the spread of COVID-19, virtual learning can encourage students to focus on their learning, with fewer distractions. It can also help minimize negative influences like exposure to drugs and bullying (though cyberbullying is of course alive and well). Virtual learning eliminates the need to travel the physical distance to and from the school, saving time and money. Families may also pay less for school supplies, lunches, and uniforms.
CyberReef’s Commitment to Eliminating the Digital Divide
On the other hand, lack of technology, lack of internet access, and a poor broadband connection can all lead to widening the digital divide dictated by race and income. This could lead to absenteeism and falling behind.
CyberReef cares about the health of our local communities. We are offering Kids Internet Defense Shield (KIDS), a cellular modem that provides Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) filtering. KIDS allows students to freely and securely access the Internet for their instructional needs. KIDS can be applied to any existing carrier and doesn’t require the installation of any devices or apps. It’s built on a private network (PN), making data more secure off the public domain.
We’re offering KIDS for free to impacted K-12 school districts for six months. The sign-up deadline is September 30, 2020. Please visit our Free CIPA Offer page for more details.
For more information on how you can make remote learning for your organization more secure, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (318) 497-7230.