Under the "Lessons Learned" files, I underestimated that families will be support in languages other than English. Having a translator ready for a tech support conference call is important.
The Region 10 Service Center in Richardson, TX has published the following guide for remote learning that includes several local distircts--very nice!
A repost from yesterday about the importance of providing tech support for those remote workers. There are some great models being developed for 7-7 support. When people are on edge, they often forget the basics of logging in from remote. Some need a person to talk to and the ability for tech support to remotely take over their computer to fix issues such Wi-Fi, printer, malware updates etc.
The Renaissance Institute is platform and vendor neutral. We not endorse any particular products. Having said that, I will be sharing tools that work well for remote management and support. I see that LogMeIn is offering their tools at no cost. We should all read the fine print, but it looks like a great service.
A reminder from OCR on the need to make web content accessible for online learning.
Interesting changes for (remote) Texas Open Meetings.
I am seeing some great ideas to maintain instruction while students are out. Some of these are technical and some paper-based. I will focus on what we are seeing from a connectivity perspective, i.e., getting kids connected at home.
First we are advising to move into this slowly as the technical and logistical challenges are huge. Do a test run with a small group such as graduating seniors or other priority. Most of our clients already have online resources and simply need to increase licensing. Many instructional companies are offering free content during this crisis and some, such as Khan Academy have always been free. I am recommending an application that logs time spent on learning to provide insight for teachers and leadership--or in case you need documentation.
Many of our clients have set up a Learning Management System (LMS) long ago and can simply point their students to that content. I'll do another post on LMS soon.
Our focus is getting students access from remote. Question vary from which laptop or tablet to use to how to get these mobile devices on the web. The legitimate online learning companies offer content that can be accessed through any Internet connected device, whether it be a laptop, tablet, or iPad. Some have APPs that can be downloaded, some recommend specific Internet browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari or other --so it is best to test which works best.
I am actually surprised how many students -- from all income levels and locations--have Internet at home. For those who don't, we are supplying cellular hotspots that communicate to the Internet through the cellular grid and allow users to connect to these hotspots using the Wi-Fi capabilities of the mobile device. Before you buy a bunch of hotspots, be sure that the cellular carrier works in the areas you are trying to serve. Most will provide coverage maps.
You also want to make sure that these hotspots provide filtered Internet service to comply with federal (CIPA) regulations and in general protect the students from harmful content.
Be sure to check on the data caps for the hotspots. Some limit the amount of data a student can use and charge penalties if they go over. Our clients are finding hotspots with unlimited data for anywhere from $10-$20 per month per hotspots. Most are wanting a one year contract. We are seeing offers for free hotspots, but be sure to read the fine print.
As we mentioned with remote staff working, remote students require technical support with connectivity, passwords, content questions, and other instructional questions. You will need to add instructional expertise to your helpdesk.
Please share what you're doing.
We are learning very fast about the type of technical support needed for the remote worker and student. We are quickly ramping up our client help desks to allow for staff and students to email or call for technical support. As we mine these helpdesk logs, I will share more about the main issues we are seeing. For now, we are seeing issues of connecting to critical systems, understanding how a VPN works, recovering passwords, and changing Wi-Fi and printer settings for home use. I am convinced that a remote helpdesk is critical to maintaining a remote work force and remote learners. I welcome your ideas and thoughts.
We start with plans to allow staff to work from outside the district--from home or elsewhere. Many of our clients have pushed critical applications such as email, Business Information Systems, Student Information Systems, and Learning Management Systems into the cloud--meaning the applications are on servers on the Internet, not in the school district. This makes it easy for staff to go directly to these sites from remote. It is important to note that you must continue to maintain the school networks and Internet service as many of these cloud applications need to be connected to your district to securely authenticate your logins.
For those that haven't pushed applications to the cloud, you can set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that extends your district network across a public network such as the Internet. Remote staff must have their own Internet service, then can access a VPN site and securely become part of the district network to access district resources. Be sure that your VPN connection is secure.
I welcome your comments on what you're doing.
As we all work our way through this unchartered territory of school closings, I wanted to provide a vehicle to share ideas about how we can maintain Business and Instruction functions in a K-12 and university setting. I'm working with some amazing school districts that are adapting--like they always do--to the situation of closed schools. with their permission, I will be sharing their stories here. Feel free to respond with your stories-good and bad-so that we can all learn from this crisis and have great Continuity Plans is place once we all return to normal operations.