Distance and hybrid learning

Beyond the Classroom: Addressing 3 key challenges of distance learning

Very few school districts were prepared for distance learning when it became a necessity this spring, but educators still reacted swiftly to ensure learning continued, even if it was under less-than-ideal circumstances.

As we enter a new school year, distance learning is continuing to play a role, often pairing e-learning with in-person classes. Now that we know remote learning is here to stay, how can educators optimize the experience to create the best student outcomes?

Coby Gurr, Lenovo Cloud and Software General Manager, shared three key challenges educators face with distance or blended learning (and a solution for addressing them):

Challenge 1: Delivering equity in distance learning.

Digital equity was an important issue long before COVID-19 forced schools to close. Yet, the shift to home-based schooling highlighted the stark differences in device and WiFi access for rural students as well as those of lower socioeconomic standing compared with more privileged classmates.

Schools are trying to address these challenges through a variety of methods including applying for grants that support 1:1 programs, printing and delivering homework and study materials, and providing mobile hotspots.

But apart from socioeconomic inequities, teachers also have to consider skill differences among students and recognize how less-skilled students may be disproportionately harmed by distance learning. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies two elements necessary for education equity:

  • Fairness – Ensuring personal and social circumstances don’t keep kids from achieving their potential.
  • Inclusion – Creating a basic education standard shared by all students regardless of background.

As we know, it can take different levels of time and attention to ensure all students meet the same basic standard. In person, it’s easier to recognize when a student is struggling and provide personalized instruction to get them back on track. When you’re teaching virtually, it can be more challenging if you don’t have the right tools in place.

If schools want to deliver equitable education through distance learning, they must put tools in place to help teachers design and implement personalized virtual instruction.

Challenge 2: Maintaining continuity of education.

Distance learning will not become a sustainable educational method unless it is on par with in-person instruction. If it’s treated as a secondary channel, switching from in-person classes to virtual instruction will be disruptive rather than seamless, and student outcomes will suffer.

We have to maintain continuity of education regardless of the channel. That means schools will have to evolve past the asynchronous teaching methods that have characterized distance learning during the pandemic thus far.

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With asynchronous learning, students can log in whenever it’s convenient, such as when a device becomes available at home. The challenge is that asynchronous learning requires more preparation by teachers, and it can result in less-engaged students. The teachers we work with have expressed students feel a lack of community and a lack of personalization when it comes to their asynchronous lessons.

Synchronous learning can return a sense of normalcy by delivering real-time lessons and interaction between students and teachers. The pros are obvious: synchronous lessons over the Internet more closely mimic in-person instruction and enable teachers and students to course correct quickly. It becomes easier to personalize lessons for each student, however it does raise equity challenges because not all students have unlimited access to devices at home.

There’s a strong case for synchronous learning when it comes to student outcomes, but schools have to address device and WiFi access one way or another for it to succeed.

Challenge 3: Securing student devices when they go home.

Many schools use firewalls or software security solutions to protect student devices and school networks from malicious content and malware, however those solutions typically do not protect devices when they connect to students’ home networks.

This makes distance learning a distinct security challenge because not only are student devices vulnerable when they connect to their home networks, but if they do contract malware, they can bring it back to the school network. School security solutions may not be prepared to protect against this onslaught of new malware coming from students’ home networks.

To protect students, school devices, and networks alike, schools have to implement cloud-based security solutions that work no matter where devices are or what networks they’re connected to.

How the LanSchool ecosystem meets each of these needs

Our cloud-based classroom management solution, LanSchool Air, is designed to support a seamless transition from the classroom to distance learning. Here’s how:

  • LanSchool Air supports real-time communication and collaboration in the classroom and beyond: The software’s features enable teachers to monitor student progress, communicate with students in real time, and push or broadcast content to student devices to ensure everyone is on the right track. This is helpful in a classroom setting as students work on 1:1 devices but even more so when they are learning remotely. Moreover, LanSchool Air works hand in hand with Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, enabling synchronous learning wherever students are working.
  • Lenovo provides complimentary LanSchool Air licenses to save schools money: We know many schools are scrambling to institute 1:1 device programs right now, but funding is tight. Our parent company, Lenovo, has developed an education hardware bundle offering that delivers a complimentary LanSchool Air license with every Lenovo device purchased. This applies retroactively to devices purchased over the last year as well. Throughout the pandemic, Lenovo has provided over $1 million in LanSchool Air licenses to help with education continuity and personalized learning.
  • Lenovo NetFilter offers AI-driven, cloud-based security: Using advanced artificial intelligence, Lenovo NetFilter can help keep schools and students safer. By providing real-time analysis of online content coupled with a quick mass deployment and customizable reports, Lenovo NetFilter supports schools and districts in meeting their safety goals.

For over 30 years, LanSchool has provided innovative edtech solutions to help address changing needs in education. We recognize that distance learning is not going to end with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re committed to helping you meet every challenge as you deliver great student outcomes and make blended learning the new normal. If you want to try LanSchool Air for yourself, sign up for a free 30-day trial

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