Although the children are now back at school there will still be thousands who are having to self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has it, and will need to ‘home school’. So, daily disruption in UK schools will sadly be the reality for the foreseeable future and education will be delivered by a hybrid approach of digital learning and face to face in the classroom.
It is therefore vital that schools have a digital communication and learning strategy in place, and that collectively we all attempt to close the digital divide that was prevalent in 2020.
It's all about access
The past year has shown that it is essential for schools to have an effective unified communications solution in place to enable staff, children and parents to communicate and access learning platforms with ease.
If schools are to manage the many devices and deliver the required broadband connectivity, they will need a robust communications infrastructure. Working with a solutions provider will allow them to leverage existing technology to protect their investment, understand their objectives and provide recommendations for suitable technology.
Up in the cloud
It is more cost-effective and secure to host your communications in the cloud. It also provides you with the flexibility to add on applications and technology when required which is paramount today.
It is not necessary to ‘rip and replace’ to transition to the cloud, you can adopt a hybrid deployment with the option of migrating at your own pace which will protect your investment and legacy technology.
For the past year schools have been using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Classrooms to teach and communicate during lockdowns and periods of self-isolation. For the foreseeable future it looks like hybrid learning will continue but it doesn’t come without its challenges.
A recent study from Microsoft and Yougov reported that 71% of teachers want to ensure that students get the right amount of access to technology and data, 65% stated that lack of face-to-face time was an issue, 53% stated that student welfare, social and development was under threat and 51% stated it effected the ability to teach.
However, the reality is that this is going to continue for the next few months. From a technology point of view it is integral that these unified communication solutions are integrated with existing systems, technology and mobiles to have a single unified communications solution for ease, effectiveness and simplicity.
Growth of the digital divide
The pandemic has highlighted this year more than ever before the extent of the digital divide and how the disadvantaged children have suffered greatly and missed out on education during this disruptive time. This is why it is imperative that this divide is addressed so these children are not severely disadvantaged and miss out.
One of the challenges of the pandemic was ensuring that pupils had access to remote learning facilities. In April 2020 the government announced they would give laptops and routers to the pupils that needed these resources. Ensuring that they had secure online access was vital, so SIM cards that fitted into MiFi devices which allowed Wi-Fi access were used, providing connectivity to online learning resources for students. These SIM cards meant that they could access the networks instantly and selected the strongest network coverage to access the internet.
Flexibility is key
Schools need flexibility to operate in this changeable world and to act accordingly, they need the ability to scale up and down, add new applications and technology to support when required. It is vital to be able to flex and blend to deliver an effective digital communication and learning strategy.
Keeping it safe
Schools can ensure that all traffic on the SIM card passes through a cloud filtering platform ensuring the safeguarding of the children. When a child accesses a website, this request is analysed in milli seconds to decide if it is an approved site. Both the teachers and the Local Authorities can also have visibility of the traffic and view reports enabling them to set policies of what sites were and were not allowed.
Now is the time
Hybrid learning is here to stay for the foreseeable future so we need to harness what we have learnt over the past year, look to evolve and carry-on testing what works and doesn’t work. This is the only way we can improve communications in schools and teaching to the advantage of the staff, students and parents.
Now is the time to implement a long-term digital communications and learning strategy that will transform your communications and processes, and provide you with the opportunity to build on it for the future. The students are the next generation, and it is up to us to provide them with the tools they require for education.
Speak to the education procurement team for more information on our ICT offering or you can read more here.