The COVID-19 pandemic has posed major challenges for the education sector, just as it has for many other industries.. As of late April 2020, there were more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries affected by school closures, according to the World Economic Forum and UNESCO data.
How can educational institutions – schools, universities, private tutoring centres – keep their businesses in operation while ensuring the safety of students and staff?
Many have already taken or are considering taking classes online via e-learning and remote learning delivery. But there is still some uncertainty about the impact of remote learning. The education providers are under pressure to assure parents of students that the quality of education will not be negatively affected and that it will continue to justify the tuition fees. They also need a way to distribute their learning material securely, ensure students get the right support and protect the integrity of their exams when they take everything online.
Can Online Education Replicate Face-to-Face Learning?
At the end of the day, you need to ensure that remote learning can efficiently replicate the traditional classroom experience in order to justify the tuition fees. To achieve this, you will need to overcome some key challenges.
Challenge #1: Giving students and faculty access to on-campus computer resources
Remote learning is not just about delivering lectures via video conferencing tools or allowing downloads. It should also include ways to help your students access on-site computer resources just like they would during in-classroom learning.
Students, especially those in higher education, often need access to licensed software applications to complete their coursework. These include applications like those for programming, 3D designing, video-editing, and much more. It may not be feasible for institutions to provide individual software licenses for students, and not all students will have computers at home powerful enough to run the desktop apps like Adobe and Autodesk.
Just like students, your faculty will also need to be able to log into on-campus computers remotely, set up lab computers, send lesson files, check student’s submissions and interact with them. While VPNs may seem like an easy and secure option at first, they can be expensive to set up, maintain and scale and can also cause lag issues.
Challenge #2: Supporting and troubleshooting tech issues
When you go remote, it can be more challenging to keep students engaged and attentive. This is only further exacerbated when there are technical issues. Video streaming problems, software crash on lab computers, file transfer issues, training, and others can disrupt the smooth running of a class. Your IT teams will need to access the broad range of student and faculty devices as well as school computers remotely in order to troubleshoot these issues.
Challenge #3: Protecting proprietary learning material
When you spend thousands of hours developing your learning materials, you want to make sure that these help your institution generate revenue effectively. But distributing your learning content online comes with a level of risk if you don’t take measures to protect these materials. For example, lecture notes, exercises and answers to tutorial questions sent to students can be downloaded or forwarded to non-paid users. Even worse, they could be leaked to competitors who could use it to conduct their own courses. Such leakage can erode your revenue, harm your reputation and competitive positioning.
Challenge #4: Tracking student engagement and protecting the integrity of online exams
When everyone is logging into classes remotely, it can be hard for your teachers to keep students interested and check their knowledge of the course content. Unlike in traditional face-to-face learning, you will have no way of knowing whether students really read your lecture notes or watched your videos. And by the time you grade their tutorials or exams, you will have lost valuable time to motivate them and their confidence may have taken a hit as well.
There is also the related challenge of preventing cheating in online exams. It is up to you to verify their identity, ensure everyone has the same allotted time to finish the exam and to prevent leakage of confidential exam questions. Additionally, you should also find a way to terminate access to the exam questions once the exams are completed, so as to stop them from circulating and ending up in the hands of future students. Failing to do any of these can harm the integrity of your exams, and diminish the quality and reputation of your institution.
Splashtop Remote Access for Educational Institutions
Splashtop provides secure remote access and remote support solutions for educational institutions to solve some of these challenges. Their solution allows students to access Windows and Mac lab computers from any device, and from anywhere. Students can use laptops, Chromebooks and any device at home and remotely control lab computers to access resource-intensive software applications with high performance features, as if they were sitting in front of the lab computers. Faculty can also access school computers from their homes, transfer files, view multiple monitors and start chats with students.
Splashtop also solves the remote access challenges for your IT teams in providing support and troubleshooting with its secure remote support solutions. These allow IT admins to resolve technical issues on students’ and teachers’ computers and mobile devices instantly so they can resume their classes immediately.
Digify Document Security to Protect Course Content and Exams
Meanwhile, educational institutions can use Digify to protect their course content and confidential exam questions from leaking. Digify provides document security and protection for your course materials by restricting access to only paid students. This prevents non-paid students from accessing the content and competitors taking your intellectual property to use it for their own gains.
With Digify, you also have an effective way to track students’ engagement with your course content. Through its document security and data room solutions, Digify lets your faculty and teachers track which students access the material, when and for long, allowing you to divert teaching resources accordingly for personalized support if needed.
Digify can be a useful solution for protecting the integrity of your exams. It functions as a cheap and easy alternative to online exam proctored exams, especially when used in combination with email and webcam based monitoring. You can also set the access to your test materials to expire once the course and its exams are concluded.
All of these measures can help you monetize your content more effectively, as RTD Learning found out when they used Digify to protect their course materials from unauthorized sending. “You can never totally prevent sharing”, says Stan Scott, Manager at RTD Learning. “We just wanted a way to minimize that sending and make it more difficult for outsiders to get a hold of our course materials.”
Educational institutions adapting to the challenge of remote learning will face financial and technology challenges for sure. But with the help of remote access solutions like Splashtop and document security solutions like Digify, you can not only survive but adapt and grow your business.