By April 2020, schools closed their doors to more than 1.5 billion students around the world, but in many cases, instruction didn’t end. Schools quickly shifted to remote learning programs, pressing forward to finish the school year despite the challenges for education during a pandemic. Keeping students connected and engaged with their teachers requires a technology-heavy strategy, and, often, schools quickly pieced their plans together — since few people had anticipated widespread, long-term school closures this year.
The fall term is shaping up to be a different story, however. With the COVID1-9 coronavirus still prevalent, schools have more warning and are anticipating operating, at least in part, remotely. California, for example, issued recommendations for “hybrid” learning, a mix of in-school and online instruction that will help decrease class size. Regardless of whether they’re opening fully, staying fully remote, or planning a combination of those options, schools across the U.S. will be looking for ways to optimize the systems they deployed this spring and possibly enhance them with new capabilities.
Solutions for Education During a Pandemic
Meet with your clients to discuss their needs related to:
1Learning Management Systems
Teachers can’t rely on an attendance report or grade book when they’re interacting with students in both physical and virtual ways. Your client may be ready to upgrade to a formal learning management system. These solutions help teachers adhere to schedules, confirm that students have received and completed assignments, provide a platform for feedback and intervention, and keep the records that teachers need to show that students mastered the material in the curriculum.
Your client may also turn to you for advice on web hosting, especially if they experienced problems with connections, slow page loading, and constant buffering when streaming. Offer your clients an evaluation of their current system and hosting plan to determine if they need to make changes.
3Solutions that Connect All Students
In some cases, all students within the client’s county or district don’t have access to internet services. Innovative value-added resellers (VARs) and managed services providers (MSPs), however, have been able to offer creative solutions. Some are helping schools use school buses as Wi-Fi hotspots to get students online. Others are helping schools build total solutions based on using radio or television broadcasts and text messaging for communication. You can add even more value, but offering your services to bring all stakeholders together, including telecom or internet providers, transportation companies, and broadcast companies.
In some cases, perhaps for students in primary grades, completing lessons on paper is best. If your client plans to print worksheets or workbooks for students, make sure their printers are up to the task and that their facilities are enrolled in automatic printer supply replenishment services so they don’t encounter downtime due to lack of supplies.
If students can connect to a school’s network, potentially, so can hackers. Discuss the importance of heightened cybersecurity with remote instruction and make sure your clients have security solutions in place. It may also be an opportunity to sign a district for managed security services.
Education during a pandemic requires a new process: screening students for fever. Schools will likely screen students who attend classes in person. Provide your clients with solutions that can help screenings take place quickly, identifying students via ID card or other means and recording results accurately.
7Social distancing support
Some schools may want to leverage their surveillance systems to ensure students are complying with social distancing and mask requirements. You may be able to equip these schools with smart systems that recognize and alert staff when they see potentially harmful behaviors.
8Communication and collaboration for educators
During social distancing, teacher meetings and continuing education need to continue, especially when they’re related to the new procedures educators must follow. Make sure your clients have the reliable communication and collaboration solutions they need — or offer Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
9Support for parents
Parents are key to making remote learning work. Discuss how your client plans to keep parents in the loop and provide them with the support and guidance they need. Also, provide parents with a secure way to ask questions or find resources — without overloading a teacher’s inbox. An online portal with messaging or a simple chatbot that can point them in the right direction could make everyone’s lives easier.
Historically Short Sales Cycles
VARs and MSPs serving the education vertical are accustomed to long sales cycles. A school’s departments usually initiate capital purchases a year or more before a school board and administration write it into a budget. In 2020, however, this probably isn’t the case. Schools need solutions now for instruction to continue — and advice about how to make available resources stretch the farthest.
Take this opportunity, not only to provide your clients with the solutions they need to continue instruction but also to strengthen your relationships with your clients looking for advice and technical expertise to meet the extraordinary challenges of education during a pandemic.