The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our normal way of life across Texas, especially in the echo of empty school halls across the state as most students have been away from campuses since Spring Break in March.
While the Lone Star state is in the process of a rolling reopening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said schools will remain physically closed for the remainder of the spring semester.
That leaves school districts scrambling to finish the year online. Across the Greater Houston Area school districts are relying on everything from Google Classrooms to platforms such as ItsLearning, Canvas and Clever to deliver lesson plans and instruction.
Move to Online Education is Accelerating
The move towards education distance learning has been on the rise before the pandemic with World Economic Forum reporting that global edtech investments reached $18.66 billion in 2019 and that figure was projected to mushroom to $350 billion by 2025.
Of course, nobody expected 1.2 billion children to be out their classrooms and trying to get online overnight as has happened with COVID-19.
The World Economic Forum said the concern with this rapid move to online learning is:
- Lack of Training for instructors and students
- Insufficient bandwidth for both school districts and students
- Lack of preparation for the sudden move
The conclusion in the World Economic Forum report is that “the COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever”.
School Districts Prepare for Sea Change
The reality of COVID-19 is that schools could reopen in the fall and then shut back down again if coronavirus cases spike seasonally. Schools need to prepare for online learning for the long haul.
Keith Krueger, CEO of the nonprofit membership organization CoSN for K-12 tech leaders, told Education Week that “districts that are trying to do this on the fly, don’t have a ubiquitous environment, don’t have their staff trained, are not likely to be able to turn on a dime and do this.”
CoSN, in a white paper made available as a courtesy to the EdTech community, said the three main considerations for a large-scale transition from in-classroom to virtual learning are:
- Systems: Key systems, including a Learning Management System (LMS), need to be in place along with a Student Information System (SIS) for educators and students to access online. Internet video conferencing can provide students access to teachers in real-time.
- Devices: Students and educators need a device such as tablet, smartphone, laptop, etc. to access the online learning. Which students need access to devices and how to provide them is priority to getting online classroom fully accessible.
- Network Access & Internet Connectivity: The success of virtual learning may hinge on the ability of a school district’s networks to handle an increase in traffic to key systems such VOIP, LMS, SIS, etc. School districts bandwidth must be able to support the surge in usage.
While it is no secret that most school districts do not have enough coins lying behind the superintendent’s seat cushions to fund new initiatives, there is help being provided by the federal government to upgrade local education technology infrastructure.
CARES Act Provides $13.2 Billion in Grants to Local Schools
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has authorized $13.2 billion in grants available to local education agencies under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
This fund, with nearly $1.3 billion of those dollars available for Texas school districts, can be used for such things as the purchase of new hardware, software, and connectivity to help with the move to online learning.
At PS LIGHTWAVE we understand that Internet access, dedicated bandwidth, and the highest level of connectivity are keys to the success as schools move forward in this enhance online environment.
We have developed a keen understanding of industry needs as we service approximately 30 school districts, in addition to higher learning institutions, reaching nearly 1 million students and staff in the Greater Houston Area.
If you want to learn more about how we can provide connectivity and high bandwidth speeds to your local school district and campus, we invite you to contact us today.
PS LIGHTWAVE provides high-speed, fiber Internet for public and private commercial entities in the Greater Houston and surrounding areas.
Through our high-quality infrastructure, innovative technology and expert, locally based support, we deliver not only the best in connectivity and reliability but in scalability and redundancy. We invite you to learn more about our services, our history and our dedicated team.