Prioritizing Student Success:  Why Virtual Learning Environments Matter

Key considerations to enable a secure and productive remote learning environment for your school’s students, faculty, and staff.

GUEST COLUMN | by Dan O’Farrell

While there has been growing discussion about the future of remote work recently, less focus has been placed on the future of higher education remote learning environments. While most universities offer international programs facilitated by blended learning models, this was on a much smaller scale for a limited number of students according to IT capacity and resources. Then everything changed in early 2020.

The pandemic shone a spotlight on the importance for universities and colleges to have an education continuity plan in place. Establishing a consistent hybrid learning space is emerging as the norm rather than the exception to enable students to securely access applications and resources whether on-campus, at their home, or in their dorm room. Equipping faculty and staff with reliable lecturing, tutorial, and administrative capabilities from a remote location play a crucial part in this space.

‘The pandemic shone a spotlight on the importance for universities and colleges to have an education continuity plan in place.’

Empower faculty and students with a collaborative and secure learning space on any device in a hybrid university campus. Sounds easy enough right? Below, I’ll highlight some ways you can streamline and mobilize your university’s learning environments and set yourself up for success.

Hybrid Learning and UYOD

As hybrid learning plans continue to be put in place, more higher learning establishments are relying on “Use Your Own Device” or “UYOD” policies. As universities continue to prioritize hybrid and remote learning options, it is becoming a necessity for students and faculty to have access to their own device. Before the pandemic, when universities were almost 100% in-person, computer labs and campus resources were heavily promoted as services for students. Now that hybrid learning is here, seemingly to stay, universities should continue to utilize UYOD policies. By equipping them, and their personal devices, with the technology (software, platforms, internet, what have you) that they need to success, you can allow your students and staff to continue their work wherever they go.

While these devices and environments may not need to be as strictly secure as they might for some companies, they still need to protect your university’s (as well as student’s) information and data. Consider all of the options before just allowing, or even asking, anyone to endanger their privacy. Make sure whatever environment you choose has the capabilities needed to provide security. These capabilities may include, but not be limited to, profile-based end-user access control, multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, and encryption.

Be Ahead of the Curve

Gone are the days of paper report cards and printed lectures. Prepare your staff for the possibility of full remote learning by offering them the resources they might need. This could be training for your university’s new virtual workspaces, or even lessons on virtual lecture best practices. Whatever it is, make sure your staff is equipped with whatever they might need to continue educating regardless of what unforeseen disruptions may occur. The same goes for your students. As your university continues to utilize hybrid learning, and continues to adopt various forms of a UYOD policy, consider what your student’s need to know, or need in general, to be as successful as possible.

Provide additional resources online as well. Students and faculty will need access to certain programs, secure testing environments, and even virtual labs. Rather than stress about moving everything online, choose services that help provide these needs.

Consider Costs

University needs are expensive – save yours and your student’s money by thinking ahead and working to move your learning environment to the cloud. This can be a stressful process, so you will want to choose technologies and structures that work with you, rather than simply sell to you. Consider options that are sustainable and flexible as well. By reusing existing hardware, as well as having your students and staff use their own devices , you can offset, or at the very lease delay, any investments in new hardware. This can in turn help you save capital expenses and reduce emissions and energy consumption incurred by the production and procurement of new devices.

Streamline solutions for your university by planning ahead, putting policies in place for remote or hybrid learning, and considering the tech needed to make those policies succeed. Highlight productivity and security, and empower your distributed faculty and students to connect, communicate, and collaborate through virtual workspaces.

Dan O’Farrell is Senior Director of Product Marketing for IGEL, provider of the next-gen edge OS for cloud workspaces and secure endpoints. Connect through LinkedIn.

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