As entire school systems transition, some observations and solutions.
GUEST COLUMN | by Nadav Avni
As the COVID pandemic continues globally, nations are tasked with choosing the best options for their citizens. This ranges from returning to 100% in-person settings to total lockdowns. For schools, this continues to be a stressful time as districts try their best to plan for all possibilities. Currently, educators have settled on hybrid learning as the best choice. Instead of totally shifting to remote learning, or insisting on in-person learning despite the COVID risks, hybrid learning gives students the best of both worlds. It also provides the necessary flexibility in the event of new stay-at-home directives.
‘As long as [students] have the tools needed to successfully connect to the school system, students won’t be left behind.’
However, transitioning the entire school system to hybrid learning poses its unique challenges. Adapting school infrastructure, equipment, materials, and personnel to function in both remote and in-person environments is not easy. With the right equipment such as software, the process can be made simpler.
Challenges in Ensuring a Level Playing Field
The success of a hybrid learning system depends a lot on infrastructure. Students living in high-density urban areas often have better wi-fi connectivity than students in rural settings. Many governments and educational boards are now trying to address this divide. To accomplish this, many countries rolled out massive network and infrastructure upgrade projects.
Additionally, there tends to be a great variation in access to reliable devices across income levels. Therefore, school districts addressed this by supplying devices free to students. For many school districts, Chromebooks or tablets were the preferred choices for remote learning use. However, some of the less affluent districts had to make do with limited supply or none at all. Instead, they asked students to supply their own smart device, whether it was their parent’s old smartphone, the family desktop computer, or a free-for-all tablet. School IT administrators worked overtime to ensure that the network accepted all these device types and configurations.
Hybrid Classrooms Are The Future of Learning
By providing a flexible system that allows in-person and remote learning to coexist, the hybrid system can continue to work even after world leaders declare an end to the pandemic. In fact, this system can address some of the previous shortcomings of education. Students who have a cold or an injury, or who can’t leave the house due to any number of reasons can still attend classes. Hybrid can also allow students to continue their schooling safely at home during the aftermath of a snowstorm or heavy rain.
In contrast, there are students who learn better in person. This includes those who are healthy enough, those in need of additional social interactions with their peers, and those from working families who can’t afford a babysitter. They all can go back to school—as long as it is declared safe to do so.
With the slowdown in coronavirus cases, many counties and districts are once again pushing for a return to normalcy. This includes fully reopening schools and encouraging students to return to class. However, even as the world already had enough of the virus, it seems that the virus hasn’t had enough of the world. Rising cases in many parts of the world make asking school systems to fully return to in-person learning a risky endeavor.
Hybrid Learning Provides Flexibility
This uncertainty is what makes hybrid learning the ideal system to adopt. Its multiple approaches offer the best chance of continuity among students. As long as they have the tools needed to successfully connect to the school system, students won’t be left behind.
Whether students use their school-issued devices or via BYOD (bring your own device), it’s important that the system safely accepts their connections. Instructors should also have the means to control the entire classroom. They require access to remote learners’ devices to ensure that students only use authorized apps and stay away from time-wasting programs such as social media or aimless surfing. To do this entails a powerful mobile device management software that can monitor all connected devices as well as provide services such as maintenance, updates, security, and safety. This covers not just individual students’ devices but also in-person school equipment such as interactive whiteboards, touchscreens, and projection systems.
Classroom Management Software Bridges Online Learning and Traditional Classrooms
Hardware definitely plays an important part in determining the success of the hybrid model. However, the key to the successful inclusion of all students and successful implementation can depend on the choice of device management software. This central control panel will ensure that all connected devices used by students get access to the virtual classroom. The software should also help keep students focused on the subject matter via its many classroom management features.
At the same time, the ideal device management solution needs to keep operations simple for teachers. Managing a classroom that’s half online and half in-person is already strenuous work. Making the management software difficult to use would be inexcusable.
Software Typically Used in Hybrid Classrooms
A typical hybrid learning environment will require instructors to use three types of software. At the minimum, software should be cloud-based, as remote access to the system is the point of hybrid learning.
Videoconferencing. This is a basic requirement for remote and hybrid learning. Remote students should have visual access to their teacher. In turn, teachers need a secure connection to students that allows them to monitor the class and share screens.
Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS acts as the repository for all educational materials needed for the class. It contains modules, presentations, and other learning materials that teachers distribute to students. Important files such as test sheets, evaluation forms, and student data can also be found here.
Classroom Management. This software aims to monitor the entire classroom in order to sustain an atmosphere of learning. It helps monitor students’ activities on their smart devices, giving teachers the option to freeze or shut down a disruptive device or application. Classroom management software can also enhance videoconference features, allowing file transfers along with shared screens. Teachers can also launch one-on-one sessions with students in order to give confidential advice or information.
Look For an All-In-One Solution
Teachers have the unenviable task of trying to manage a classroom, all while operating three types of software. If the applications are counterintuitive or they are hopelessly distinct from each other, teachers will likely spend more time trying to get things to work instead of teaching.
Management software should have no problem being seamlessly switched between remote, in-person, and hybrid learning. A flexible subscription method should also reflect its hybrid nature or school districts may complain they’re getting charged for subscription services they’re not actually using.
When searching for the ideal solution for managing a hybrid class, look for all-in-one solutions that serve as a combined videoconferencing, learning management system, and classroom management software. This eliminates the need for teachers to learn and operate three separate software types so they can spend more time teaching instead of figuring out the software.
Nadav Avni is CMO at Radix Technologies., a leader in interactive touchscreens and VR device management, offering end-to-end device management solutions by consolidating all of an organization’s devices, processes and stakeholders into one easy-to-use management platform.