While various forms of distance learning have been around for decades, colleges and K-12 schools continue to face new and complex challenges in the face of the global health crisis.
Colleges and universities have long offered distance learning to make it possible to obtain education without having to attend campus full-time, while private educational companies have offered this service to homeschool parents and parents of children who are unable to attend a private or public school for one reason or another.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has changed everything.
The vast majority of school systems in the U.S. switched to a remote learning model in 2020, often on short notice and with limited equipment. Most districts continue to offer distance learning options for the 2021-2022 school year, albeit in a more prepared, organized manner, and it’s conceivable that many educational institutions would continue to offer this form of learning in 2022 and beyond.
Distance learning isn’t just a solution to prevent the spread of disease. Colleges and universities in particular have found that offering a robust online curriculum could enable them to attract a growing number of students who would never sign up for in-person classes. K-12 educational institutions are realizing that remote learning could make it possible for students to continue their schooling even if severe inclement weather makes school attendance impossible.
At the same time, educational institutions are discovering that there is more to quality distance learning than mere Zoom calls. Modern technology provides a host of solutions to make it possible for schools serving children and adults of all ages and walks of life to provide students with a top-tier education rivaling the one they would receive in an in-person learning environment.
A recent report by Commercial Integrator surveyed companies offering distance learning equipment and found that:
– More than half of their clients had purchased computers/tablets/laptops, PTZ cameras, in-room microphones, digital displays, and presentation technology.
– More than 40% of distance learning clients invested in collaboration technology, touchscreen displays, and web cameras.
– Over 67% of companies selling distance learning technology also provide training for most of their systems.
– Nearly 75% of companies also manage and monitor distance learning set-ups for clients.
A lack of proper equipment
The equipment and services listed above are essential for any distance learning experience. Even so, most educational institutions will find that more equipment and services are needed in order to provide an optimal distance learning experience.
For example, portable microphones aren’t typically near the top of the list when purchasing remote learning equipment; however, these microphones can make it easy for teachers to get up from a desk and use a variety of tools to create an engaging educational experience.
Similarly, the right presentation software enables teachers to design eye-catching presentations to help students understand and remember important facts. Interactive whiteboards help students and teachers work together on a project even if they can’t meet in the classroom.
Essential ancillary services to support distance learning
It’s also important to pay attention to services when selecting a distance learning technology provider. Commercial Integrator has found that just under 28% of distance learning service providers offer IT/network management; however, these services may be invaluable if you don’t have a team of trained IT professionals at your educational institution who can handle IT glitches that could make it impossible for teachers to connect to their students.
Cybersecurity management is yet another essential service; only 13.7% of surveyed distance learning companies offer it even though cyberattacks against K-12 schools rose by a whopping 18% last year and the FBI expects attacks to rise this school year.
Training is yet another factor to consider when choosing a company to create your distance learning set-up. Over 67% of companies offer teacher training to help instructors learn how to use the distance learning hardware and software; however, only 18.2% of companies offer the same training to students who will actually be using the system.
Furthermore, schools that opt to have an in-house IT team monitor and manage the system will want to find a firm that offers training for school IT/AV teams.
How to find the perfect setup
Modern technology offers a wide range of solutions to make it easy for educational institutions to select or even create the distance learning set-up that’s the best fit for their students and faculty members. What’s more, you don’t have to come up with the winning set-up on your own. Companies that specialize in distance learning products and services can provide custom consultations to help you find the perfect distance learning solutions for your situation.
A comprehensive consultation would include a look at your school, discussing who will use the software, which virtual educational services are being offered, and more. It would also include going over various product/service options, outlining the advantages of each one, and creating a distance learning setup plan. Once the plan is in place, the service provider would install needed hardware and software to make your desired set-up a reality.
Distance learning professionals can’t handle the job on their own. School administrators, teachers, and even parents have an important role to play in providing information about student needs and offering suggestions regarding the type of setup that would work best for the school. Administrators must be able to collaborate closely with the provider to assess how the system would be monitored, serviced, and scaled when needed to ensure the distance learning setup will work well long-term.
AVDG specializes in creating custom distance learning solutions for all types of educational institutions. We also offer top-tier support and other services to ensure your digital classrooms run smoothly for the long-term. Get in touch with us at your convenience to learn more about our distance learning solutions or to schedule a free consultation.