The Covid-19 pandemic has forced change on everyone, perhaps none more so than teachers and students. Education, that central pillar of civilization, was forced to go digital essentially overnight.
The most visible aspect of this remote learning, with its evident tradeoff: Everyone in the world can now access the foremost expert on a subject – but the cost is the loss of easy interaction.
The pandemic will wane, and most educational activity will return to the schools. But some of the new ways will be adopted, where they are useful.
Indeed, schools have long lagged in the digital transformation, whether due to costs, conservatism, or bureaucracy. The past year may be remembered for helping bridge that gap – and there is much more to this than remote learning.
Here are some of the issues that will be with us to stay.
Virtual teaching also called for virtual resources, placing pressure on schools to digitize fast. Studies suggest that by digitizing educational curricula, you allow students to engage on their own terms and possibly more deeply. Digitization also grants students remote access to quality education.
Many schools faced challenges in finding, sorting, and sharing necessary documents and paperwork. As school buildings closed entirely, faculty was cut off from critical information stored in filing cabinets.
School nurses who had not digitized their files were unable to access student medical files, severely restricting their ability to perform their job. Most states require that schools keep student and employee records for decades. This has made the jobs of human resources professionals in the K-12 worlds incredibly difficult to do remotely. How can you access an employee file from your living room if it’s locked in a file cabinet in the basement of a school?
Teachers have also reflected on the scramble of digital transformation as one of the more stressful adjustments, especially those who had always relied on paper copies.
The overall goal moving forward should be to drive smarter technology integration that makes educators, administrators and students lives easier and more accessible. By digitizing files, forms, and paperwork, you not only increase preparedness for remote education but also centralize information making it available at the push of a button.
The growing use of remote access naturally gives rise to cybersecurity concerns. And while most in-person learning resumed mostly in 2021, some K-12 operations may very well stay remote.
American School and University Magazine wrote, “Public K-12 education agencies across the nation reported 348 cybersecurity incidents during 2019.” This number nearly triples the reported number from 2018 and is predicted to be far worse now.
Doug Levin, founder, and president of the K–12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, told Education Week that with more teachers and students online and from different locations, “in many cases, all it takes is for one person to make a mistake in a school community for a school district network to get infected, or a data breach to happen.” Phishing is one of the largest cybersecurity threats in schools. EdTech Magazine advises that, “school leaders must also keep privacy compliance top of mind as they increasingly rely on digital platforms to share information with each other.”
Going digital is far more than just creating a virtual classroom. But just as with remote work, some of the pandemic model will remain – largely because the infrastructure is now in place and the public has grown accustomed. K-12 leaders should take the lessons learned from this challenging time and use them to inform their long-term planning.