What Can We Learn from the Best, to Provide Better Solutions for All Schools?
There has been no digital transition as fast-tracked as the pivot to remote learning/teaching by our country’s schools in 2020. Despite the speed bumps, the mission of enabling instructional continuity was accomplished, with a mix of remote, in-person, and hybrid connectivity. But if you’re an integrator, attention now turns to tomorrow: how can you help your Higher Education or K-12 customers accomplish not just “good enough,” but help propel schools into a better future while simultaneously growing your business? You need to gain the “trusted advisor” and trusted provider status from schools for tomorrow’s challenges not yesterday’s. And you need the right mix of expertise and the right technology partners.
Best practices are now emerging on both fronts, with lessons learned from the best universities now being applied to schools of all kinds. In March 2020, as part of a “COVID 19 Impact on Higher Ed Virtual Flash Conference” organized by top university AV managers, one of the panelists commented that “the crisis has revolutionized the adoption of new tools – this crisis is moving higher ed 5 years into future.” What are the top lessons on both the technology side and in the new pedagogical thinking, that you and your education customers should be focused on, in the adoption of new solutions?
- In Higher education, room configuration on campuses will change:
Schools are freeing up the big auditoriums and other larger classrooms sby moving many of those big survey courses online. You can now do a 200-person class, or a 400 person class, from a smaller room, because students are a combination of in-person (if at all) and remote. This means: more classrooms on campus, not fewer. And each of those classrooms needs AV and network tools. You should be consulting with architects and on-campus facilities professionals to make sure you’re in line with their new design thinking. Educators are rethinking what square feet they need for many classes. Some classes will only need space for one person, the instructor, as all students will attend with remote platforms. Some larger spaces will be bisected or more, to create 2 or 4 classrooms where there was one. There are many ways to parse spaces, but the bottom line is that schools will start re-architecting their buildings. You need to be in on that process from the beginning.
- Synchronous, or Asynchronous?
For either Higher Ed, or K-12, remote or hybrid teaching is designed for synchronous, or asynchronous remote attendance. In a Synchronous model, instructors and students gather at the same time and interact in “real time” with a short or “near-real time” exchange between instructors and students. For Asynchronous, instructors prepare course materials for students in advance of students’ access, and students may access the course materials at a time of their choosing and will interact with each over a longer period of time. From a technology standpoint, each approach has its own advantages and its own needs, and its own challenges. For example, some students and teachers may face technical challenges or difficulties if they do not have fast or powerful Wi-Fi networks accessible, so providing network infrastructure upgrades is key. The Synchronous model allows for more responsive exchanges between students and instructors, but having the right platform in place is key here: whether the platform in use is MS Teams, Zoom, etc., you need an enterprise-level subscription that unlocks all the synchronous document sharing, security, and other settings needed to provide the best experience.
- Accommodate Students with Disabilities:
Setting up remote teaching/learning for the average student is challenging enough, but you must be on top of all the rules for, and new technologies available to accommodate students with disabilities. According to the National Education Association (NEA), the number of U.S. students enrolled in special education programs has risen 30 percent over the past 10 years. The good news with remote learning: students who may otherwise feel marginalized and excluded in a traditional classroom, can take center stage online and offer contributions fitted to their unique strengths without the pressure of their peers being physically with them.
A variety of peripherals help with the remote learning. SYNNEX on-staff K-12 and Higher Ed specialists can recommend solutions that enable schools to provide better solutions for disabled students than what were available just a year ago.
- Technology Safe Spaces and Safe Campuses
For Higher Ed and K-12 campuses, “collaboration” technology is key now, but other technologies are increasingly on schools’ needs lists. The need to create “safe spaces” including entry/access issues, is also now very important. For example: thermal scanning/occupancy management/other safety and health-related solutions are now important for more schools. These new solutions can monitor for temperature-related red flags among students, staff, and faculty entering the campus, and also provide a digital “count” of occupancy in rooms or any space to assure compliance with social distancing guidelines.
 Quote from Josh Kaufman of Tufts University, panelist in March 16, 2020 forum: “COVID 19 Impact on Higher Ed Virtual Flash Conference.”