Educators need security for back-to-class and remote learning to ensure privacy, education continuity, and classroom control while driving student success.

What lessons did you learn when students switched to remote learning?

The pivot to full remote learning this spring was an experience that few of us would like to undertake again. However, there were several lessons we can learn from the transition to remote learning as we start to explore and plan for the 2020-21 school year.

Security is necessary to ensure student success

Educators need secure access for back-to-class and remote learning to ensure privacy, education continuity, and classroom control while driving student success.

In the primary/secondary world, a wide variety of tools were implemented to deliver a classroom-like teaching environment. In the higher education world, one specific platform seemed to dominate, and was also the most used platform for primary/secondary.

Unfortunately, the move to remote learning stress tested the capabilities of all platforms and revealed some gaps that for educators are must haves, such as:

• Security
• Classroom control
• Privacy
• Continuity

Difficult to teach without classroom control

Classroom control is an important skill for all teachers to master – and one that is not taught, but rather comes from teaching and collaborating with experienced teachers.  Without strong classroom management, the learning environment can quickly become chaotic and frustrating for everyone.

Classroom control includes not only being able to identify and isolate offending students, but also ensuring that only the class roster is in the classroom.  In the move to online teaching, most of the strategies and best practice advice was ineffective because the platforms were not designed to mimic a classroom, but rather to replicate a conference room.

Secure access ensures privacy

The topic of information privacy in education is common among all nations, and is simply the desire to protect the identity and sensitive information of our children.  In the virtual world, there are features and strategies that can be implemented to protect the privacy of the student and teacher communications and information.  Chief among these are encrypting the end-to-end communications in a virtual conversation, rendering any intercepted data meaningless.

Another aspect is to protect the privacy of the teacher.  Since buildings and campuses were closed, some remote learning platforms forced the teacher to present their personal telephone number, rather than the institution/work number.  While currently there is scant evidence of widespread exploitation of this exposure of personally identifiable information (PII), unless the teacher changes their phone number, there is some risk.

Physical security and secure remote access is critical to success

Education is an industry that is serious about security – both physical (while on campus and engaged in campus activities) and remote learning in the cyberworld.

In the physical world, campuses can integrate IoT sensors, alarms and alerts with geofencing technology to react and warn impacted communities.  However, when the campus is empty and has moved to remote learning, it is imperative that both the students and faculty have a secure mechanism to access and submit documents and other resources.

VPN and firewall technologies are important

For teachers, this can easily be solved by using VPN technology, which is usually part of the firewall package, or can be purchased as a stand-alone appliance.  For those teachers, that need to access campus telephony as part of their work from home requirements, a VPN enabled Wi-Fi access point can connect their physical IP phone or their IP desktop softphone back to the campus PBX.

Education continuity is essential between classrooms and remote learning

The last aspect is continuity – essentially the resiliency to continue business and academic operations.  From the business point of view, communities need to be and stay informed.  Tools to assist with this critical function include chatbot enabled web pages, providing quick FAQ-type information.

When chatbots are not sufficient, escalation to a virtual assistant – an employee – who can answer more complex questions in a chat, audio or video environment.  Lastly, deploying multi-media call centers allow the district or institution to be able to swiftly address all aspects of inquiries.

Security, classroom control, privacy continuity, and privacy are all part of the lessons we’ve learned. Learning from these experiences allows us to be resilient and continue to serve our community’s needs.

At Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, supporting education is a primary interest for us. Our Alcatel-Lucent OmniAccess Stellar Wi-Fi, Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch network switches, and Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow helps ensure your students and staff can continue the education process that is so critical to everyone’s success.

Learn more in our Continuity of Learning section.

Tags - Digital Age Networking, Business Continuity, Switches, WLAN

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About the author
Greg Kovich photo for blog author page

Greg Kovich

Global Sales Lead, Education Vertical

Greg Kovich leads global sales for ALE’s Education vertical.  Greg has overseen or created several Education solutions including “The Fundamentals of Communications” – a vendor neutral course on digital network communications; “Safe Campus” – a solution uniting emergency alerts with first responder collaboration and mass notification; “Secure Campus” – a solution that allows instructors to limit student network access to determined sites; and “Pandemic Education Continuity” – a solution that enables classroom instruction in the event the institution is closed due to health or environmental crisis. 

He is a 1992 graduate of Indiana University with over 20 yrs experience in Information Technology.

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