3 Top Things Chief Information Officers Should Consider When Taking Their School Online
And, well, taking your school online IS truly one of the greatest challenges that schools face the world over: From shoring the school campus with wireless networks, to choosing the most robust Learning Management System, and from stacking up device applications to delivering educational content – this is one heck of a job.
While creating a digital infrastructure for a school or K12 network, it is critical to ensure that technology does not cause major disruptions, but truly enhances the learning experience. Here are 3 things you should consider when taking your school online:
- Customize learning for each level.
Going for a blanket strategy while adopting a digital platform across all levels of schooling is perhaps the biggest mistake that CIOs or school principals can make. Students have changing needs as they graduate from elementary to middle and high school, and it is imperative that their learning needs are met accordingly. Thus, customization is key and schools must be smart enough to use the right technologies in the most effective manner. For example, for elementary level kids, schools can go heavy on the gamification of content. This is when kids are at their most curious and eager age. Engaging them with fun word games, crosswords and math puzzles, along with gamified content, can be the way to go. For middle school kids, schools can opt for more sophisticated learning technologies like virtual reality. Incorporating virtual reality apps in their Learning Management System would enable kids to not just learn about different continents and countries, but actually “experience” them. This is the perfect stimulus for kids who are in the process of learning basic concepts, theories and foundational skills. And finally, for higher education, the focus must certainly be on self-paced and collaborative learning. This is when students need maximum flexibility, and providing them with tools like digital classrooms, the ability to take notes and share in real-time, conference and connect with teachers and fellow students from anywhere anytime, become vital components.
- Choose the right edTech platform/solution.
Once the student needs are identified, selecting the right edTech solution is key. Everyone knows the pain of dealing with complex architectures, millions of links and screens, and of course months of training sessions. Your best bet is to move from legacy systems to the cloud to ensure deployments are faster and simpler. Also, choose an edTech platform that not only allows you to customize the learning experience for different levels but also unifies everyday tools to deliver an integrated experience. The last thing schools want is to log in and out of multiple systems for simple tasks. Every user –student or teacher– must have just one username for logging into all learning modules and tools. With just one login, students must be able to access all content, eBooks, tests, assignments, and live lectures, while teachers must be able to assign tasks, create customized courses and grade student assignments, all in one go. Also, edTech platforms must be complemented with powerful analytics and performance tracking systems that track user behavior, learning patterns, student attendance, and help manage other student data.
- Devices over smart classrooms.
This is one of the most raging ongoing debates among the educational fraternity. Most K12 schools still prefer to equip their classes with special computer programs and software, compliant local area networks, and of course the smartboards that truly contribute to collaborative learning. However, smart classrooms made most sense in the pre-mobile era. With the world moving essentially to a mobile-only place, smart classrooms are rapidly becoming outdated. Especially the extraordinary proliferation of devices does make the ground stronger for device-focused or 1:1 digital education. A simple cost-benefit analysis also shows that smart classrooms require huge investments (about $4,000 per classroom) as compared to the much cheaper tablets. Also, since students can get to keep their devices, there is a great sense of ownership. While 1:1 education too has had its fair share of failures and backlash, schools can also explore BYOD or device sharing models. Sharing devices among small student groups not only makes digital education cheaper for schools, but also unleashes the essence of collaborative learning, which is rapidly taking center stage. Smart classrooms –despite all the technology– do not break the traditional mold of teacher-led learning.
With these basic features taken care of, schools, colleges, and universities can move forward with their digital programs with greater confidence and less chances of messing things up when taking their school online.