As educational institutions—from K-12 to higher education—prepare to open this fall, they are doing so under circumstances never before experienced or imagined. This is causing a re-evaluation of strategies and tactics required to fulfill the educational mission, maintain the value and efficacy of technology investments, and keep students’ educational experience moving forward.
“In a time of crisis, it’s even more important to remember your goals. That way you don’t wind up wasting investments, you stay on the same page, you’re focused on the well-being of the kids, and you keep your top priorities the same,” says Matt Dascoli, senior K-12 education strategist at Dell Technologies. “School systems need to stay focused on their mission and their vision of what they want from that mission.”
This new and rapidly evolving dynamic is forcing a shift in both educational processes and technology. With more students than ever learning remotely, access is clearly the number one factor. “Access is critical across K-12 and higher ed, as well as the infrastructure to enable that access,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lancaster, senior higher education strategist at Dell Technologies. “And it’s not just having a device, but also a device that can connect.”
And access considerations extend beyond merely connecting to the Internet. “Sometimes we think of access as, ‘Let’s get a laptop in front of them and make sure the Wi-Fi signal is full,’ but access goes beyond that,” says Dascoli. “You have to consider access to the appropriate content and the appropriate people.”
The crisis has also led to an evolution of student expectations about the quality of remote educational content. “Instructors have had to figure out the right content that will work in an asynchronous format,” says Dr. Lancaster. “In the spring, remote learning was ‘good enough’; students gave instructors a lot of leeway in response to an emergency pivot online. Students now expect fall courses to be better than they were in the spring as a result of course development iterations having occurred over the summer.”
Another technology supporting remote learning is VDI. “[Higher ed] campuses have specialized labs and making sure students have access to those labs remotely is becoming more prominent,” says Chris Wessells, senior higher ed strategist at Dell Technologies. “Institutions that already had VDI in place were able to pivot quickly to make those available to students.”
Educational institutions have shifted their decision-making processes as well. “The need to pivot and adapt quickly to a changing landscape is something that’s relatively new for higher education,” says Lancaster. “Folks in higher ed are incredibly thankful for their people’s willingness to adapt, adjust, and try and do things in different ways. We’re seeing this move from long term committee decision-making structures to a more iterative shorter cycle of assessment, re-assessment, and feedback.”
The onus for adapting to this new reality lies heavier on academic leadership than ever before. “People realize they’re in an unprecedented situation, and they must be able to execute decisions quickly to preserve the fundamental mission of teaching and learning,” says Wessells. “The institutions that already had a solid governance structure in place are in a lot better position for moving to that virtual environment than institutions that did not.”
Yet this shift could actually prove to be a significant catalyst. “We’ve seen antiquated approaches to teaching and learning become transparent. The whole learning experience needs to shift,” says Dascoli. “We want to create better learning experiences, so let’s use this as a catalyst.”
Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.