As Coronavirus caused school closures across the world, some districts were more prepared to shift to remote learning than others. Over the last few weeks we’ve been reaching out to our customers to see how they’re doing and to get their thoughts on what can make distance learning easier, safer, and more effective for schools. (After all, this isn’t over with the end of the school year; everyone we spoke to is planning for a fall back-to-school season that includes at least some distance learning.)
Five factors stood out as making the transition to remote learning easier:
1. Access to enough devices for 1:1
While not every district was in the practice of sending devices home with students each day, having access to enough mobile devices for each student allowed districts to quickly deploy a take-home 1:1 for distance learning. Even better was already having the policies and practices in place for sending devices home with students.
“We are very thankful that we are a technology-rich district that uses resources. There was no lift on getting the kids used to anything. We already had things in place.” – Stacy Royster, Director of Technology, Opelika City Schools
2. Mobile devices already protected by Relay Filter
Sending devices home means they need a web filter that works seamlessly even off the school network. Everyone we talked to said that having Relay Filter in place before COVID hit helped them make the shift more easily since Relay Smart Agents were already on devices, providing protection and ensuring student safety from anywhere. (Bonus point for the fact that it can be managed from anywhere, without on-site hardware to maintain, keeping IT teams safe too.)
“We had a huge advantage because we already had Relay. With the realization that devices would need to go home came the questions from parents, teachers, and administrators about filtered access and student safety. Because we had Relay I was able to let the stakeholders know that content would still be filtered.” – Robert Williams, Director of Technology, Nye County School District
“With Relay already in place, the transition to digital education district wide has been seamless for filtering.” – Richard Perkins, ITS Coordinator, Clay County Schools
3. Planning for students and teachers without internet access
The devices are essential, but without internet access remote learning doesn’t go far. Some schools planned ahead for a take-home environment, budgeting for hotspots for at-home internet access for those who need it. Others worked with providers to enable internet access from local businesses and offices.
“We had 95 hotspots built into the budget. All our kids have internet access now.” – Steve Thomaschefsky, Director of Technology, Waupaca School District
4. An LMS in place to streamline delivery of instructional materials
With students and staff spread around town for remote learning, most districts reported that having an existing LMS in place made the transition easier for everyone. The more consistency in use of the LMS and the more used to using the LMS everyone was, the better. Many schools quickly planned training – for teachers, students, and parents – to ensure everyone could use the LMS effectively.
“We needed a one-stop-shop for parents and students – they login and everything is there.” – Steve Thomaschefsky, Waupaca School District, Director of Technology
5. Reporting on usage and engagement
In a new, completely digital learning environment, schools’ engagement and app usage is changing as well – and visibility can be decreased off the school campus and school networks. Osseo Public School District has been a longtime user of Relay Analytics to gather data on engagement and adoption of tools to make data-driven decisions across the district. Now, Relay Analytics helps them answer important questions for remote learning success.
“We’ve been able to pull statistics and data on our usage on digital tools. Are students able to engage with the platforms we’ve laid out? Are teachers providing the rich learning resources in the digital learning environment?” – Anthony Padrnos, Director of Technology, Osseo Public School District
School IT teams are working harder than ever to provide the technology, tools, and support that are essential to continuity of learning during these closures. Having the right systems in place helps. These early lessons from the spring are shaping plans for a return to school – remote, on campus, or hybrid – in the fall. And with the help of Relay, our customers are a step (or two or three) ahead of the game.
It’s not too late!
Try Relay free through June 30, 2020 and be ready for the fall. Sign up