- Edtech tools and IT infrastructure are critical in ensuring a seamless HyFlex learning experience for students
- IT leaders must streamline workflows to remain current and competitive
- See related article: IT leaders are critical for a positive student experience
With another academic year in the books, higher education institutions are already gearing up for the fall semester, looking to address challenges of the last year—and improve the flexible learning (HyFlex) experience that’s come to be expected by students and faculty everywhere.
Educational technology has never played a more pivotal role in providing the hybrid learning experience that students require and institutions rely on for overall success. IT teams need to accommodate the integration of in-person and online learning, while supporting a wide range of physical and virtual devices and ensuring security and privacy in complex environments.
With institutional success now relying on providing a modern digital foundation, IT leaders need streamlined workflows in order to overcome current and upcoming edtech challenges.
Let’s explore five strategies and tools education IT departments need to include on their back-to-school checklist to improve and enhance overall efficiency.
1. Granting equal, anytime access to labs and resources
Providing everyone with equitable access to resources, labs, and classes whenever they need it is the first step towards delivering successful blended experiences that meet students’ expectations and enhance their performance.
Research shows that more than 80 percent of higher-ed students believe their performance would significantly improve with a remote option available for all classes. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of respondents stated they would consider switching to a different institution if their current one could not provide them with flexible learning options.
As students, teachers, and administrators pursue a more efficient life-work-school balance, educational institutions are called to focus on adopting more flexible learning models that allow everyone to access and utilize academic resources including computers and software, from everywhere and any device.
Edtech leaders need to implement technology that enables effective methods to serve both classroom-based and online students, without compromising security and equity in the way education is delivered. Remote access technology can help higher education institutions remove digital barriers, ensuring students can complete lab work and access classes despite any financial, physical or social disparity. By integrating this type of edtech, universities and colleges can step into the future of education and enhance the experience and perceived value–not only for students completing their coursework, but also for faculty and staff looking for a more flexible approach to teaching.
2. Improving in-classroom learning, engagement, and collaboration
Technology in classrooms has come a long way, offering tools that have the potential to significantly enhance engagement and interactivity in higher education. Modern tools such as digital displays have revolutionized the higher education landscape, empowering educators to create more interactive learning environments. With digital displays, teachers can effortlessly share content and annotate it in real-time, making the learning experience more dynamic and visually appealing. Furthermore, by extending the display to students’ devices, teachers can foster a collaborative environment where students actively participate and contribute through annotations.
In addition to facilitating active learning, in-classroom collaboration tools and technology have shown great potential in increasing students’ engagement. According to a study conducted by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, 73 percent of students reported that technology increased their interaction and engagement with course material. By leveraging digital displays and collaborative platforms, instructors can create interactive learning experiences that captivate students’ attention and foster a sense of active participation. Real-time annotation and content sharing capabilities enable students to contribute their ideas, ask questions, and collaborate with their peers, promoting a more engaging and interactive classroom environment. This active involvement in the learning process can lead to deeper comprehension, improved retention of information, and an overall increase in students’ performance.
3. Minimizing downtime with efficient IT support platforms
In HyFlex environments where students use an average of two personal devices, and where a variety of edtech needs to be deployed for academic and administrative purposes, providing timely and efficient remote support is essential to ensure performance. An EDUCAUSE survey found that more than 60 percent of students reported that technical issues had at least one tangible impact on their coursework. Furthermore, Splashtop’s survey found that 91 percent of students expect to receive on-demand support when they encounter technical issues.
Adopting advanced remote support technology can make a significant difference in the level of support IT departments provide. It allows teams to quickly address technical issues and troubleshoot hardware and software problems, enhancing the experience for everyone. Faculty members can receive immediate support to address connectivity issues, software glitches, or other technical challenges, allowing them to focus on delivering high-quality instruction. Similarly, students can receive timely assistance when encountering difficulties with course materials or software deployment even when using personal devices, enabling them to remain engaged and progress smoothly in their academic journey. By leveraging high-performing remote support capabilities, IT departments can create an environment where technology seamlessly enables the educational mission and facilitates success for all stakeholders within the institution.
In order to reduce time-to-fix and streamline workflows, IT professionals need to prioritize solutions that leverage fast and secure remote connections via multiple methods (invitation link, website, session code, or agent-based) and that seamlessly integrate with existing professional services automation (PSA) and ticketing systems.
4. Deploying the right security framework
The increase of edtech solutions, as well as of personal devices in use for remote learning and work, have strongly increased security risks. The sensitive data held by colleges and universities, including personal information such as addresses, birthdays, social security numbers, loan applications, and tuition-related banking details, makes data security a critical and urgent concern for edtech leaders. In the last few years, educational institutions have become prime targets for cybercriminals, with ransomware attacks becoming increasingly common in the sector. Meanwhile, remote access and BYOD policies, while essential to supporting a HyFlex environment, have unavoidably increased the attack surface for institutions, raising the risk of data breaches and financial loss.
Malware attacks against educational institutions rose by 26 percent in 2022, according to SonicWall’s 2023 Cyber Threat Report. Notably, attacks targeting connected smart devices in the education sector rose by 146 percent. A particular concern for educational institutions is ransomware, a favorite tactic of cybercriminals, and one that can inflict significant financial and operational costs. Higher education organizations had an average remediation cost of $1.42 million per ransomware attack, and the slowest recovery time among all sectors, according to Sophos’ State of Ransomware in Education 2022 report.
Education IT leaders need to implement robust policies and procedures, focusing on prevention, detection, response, and recovery. Selecting edtech components that have the highest security standards, such as those for authentication and data security, already built in will help IT teams better manage secure access and control to sensitive data. By using tools and processes that support identity and controlled access management to all digital resources including Wi-Fi, computers, and applications, IT teams can significantly reduce risk exposure.
5. Consolidating edtech for greater efficiencies and less stress for IT pros
The proliferation of edtech during the last years has resulted in a hodgepodge of solutions that need to be implemented, integrated, and constantly managed. In addition to that, the increase in remote access and BYOD policies for hybrid learning has added to the volume of IT tasks, such as endpoint monitoring and management, endpoint security, and on-demand troubleshooting support duties. As a result, IT teams are faced with increased workloads, as well as fragmented workflows, disjointed processes, and higher costs.
While the role of IT becomes more pivotal to the success of any educational institution, the competition to attract and retain skilled IT professionals is posing further challenges for colleges and universities. Research found that a staggering 65 percent of IT help desk personnel experienced unsustainable levels of stress and burnout. One reason why: 87 percent of teams said they needed new tools and processes to effectively support the growing range of devices, operating systems and networks being used, as well as facing growing security risks.
Streamlining this jumble of edtech tools has become a pressing need for IT teams. Educational institutions are now called to prioritize enabling IT staff in the consolidation of tools that are easy to implement, that can be deployed across multiple platforms, and that can seamlessly integrate with other existing systems. It’s only by reducing the amount of technology in use for academic and administrative purposes, and by ensuring these tools are compliant with the highest security standards, that higher ed can help IT departments streamline workflows, reduce overhead, and increase the value of technology investments in education.
With a new academic year fast approaching, the summer is a critical time for IT professionals working on the set-up of the seamless HyFlex environment that students, faculty, and staff require. With the right solutions in place, IT teams can successfully streamline operations, minimize downtime and disruptions, and deliver a reliable and secure hybrid environment.
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