Ensuring robust internet, access to devices keys to successful distance learning
California’s Governor represents one of many officials who have determined their states are not ready for traditional school openings. In California over 30 counties have been added to a watchlist which automatically removes the possibility for schools to physically open their doors.
When COVID-19 hit the U.S., schools closed their doors with many electing to either end the year early or attempt to stand up virtual schooling with varying results. However, consistent across efforts to virtualize teaching and learning back then, was the need for increased bandwidth and internet security. Now for the foreseeable future, as thousands of schools across the U.S. prepare to open virtually, that demand for increased bandwidth and device security has increased exponentially.
Many districts across the country rely on state and/or regional service centers charged to provide internet connectivity and device security. This model is best exemplified in California where most schools connect to their respective County Office of Education (COE) for these much-needed services.
California maintains 58 COE’s who are now under growing pressure to meet the growing demand to increase internet bandwidth and as a consequence – provide a broader level of internet security (content filtering) as districts meet their obligation to provide safe and reliable virtual schooling for millions of students.
The California example can be multiplied by thousands of counties across the U.S. as hundreds of millions of students and teachers connect to the internet with a computing device; at a time when many state and regional education service centers struggle with budget shortages, and limited internet security resources. Federal and state policy intended to provide the K-12 community much-needed funding has been slow to address budget challenges and has further aggravated the demand regional education centers are experiencing, which has led to budget cuts at the very time these organizations desperately need additional funding to address increasing demands.
As districts solidify their plans to reopen, one fact remains, all districts will be more reliant on the internet to deliver instruction, and most districts will require a computing device/take-home program. As a resulting state and regional education service centers face tremendous pressure to provide the network infrastructure and cybersecurity solutions (with no new budget considerations), to support thousands of new mobile computing devices while ensuring compliance with state and federal child safety mandates, not to mention the challenge the K-12 community has always faced to combat the tremendous increase in cybersecurity threats.
Ensuring our state and regional education centers have the needed resources at this time, should be a national imperative, at a time when our education system is stressed under the strain of the most severe national crisis affecting our country and threatening the academic vitality of our nation’s youth.
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