As students head back to the classroom, the framework for traditional education has changed considerably. Schools have invested heavily in digital technology and although the pandemic has highlighted issues of digital inequality, when given the right environment, it has been proven to have huge benefits for students; for example, research shows that schools using a virtual learning environment have higher general pupil engagement level than schools not using them.
More than a year into the pandemic, it’s important to think about the lessons schools can learn from remote learning and consider a more digitally focused strategy that optimises learning and student engagement to create more of a blended approach.
The flipped classroom
Popular amongst educators in recent years has been the idea of a ‘flipped classroom’, where the learning environment is flexible and students complete more work independently. Research shows that this method results in increased student engagement and better test scores than more traditional teaching. Particularly in a school setting, evidence shows that teachers who set activities that involve consolidating previous learning have consistently higher levels of engagement.
Secondary schools in particular should consider how they can utilise technology to implement a flipped classroom environment, capable of holding students’ attention. During the past 12 months, pupils have demonstrated they have the ability to learn remotely and independently. By ensuring work can be completed at home and remotely, valuable face-to-face class time is reserved for discussing ideas and concepts at a higher level. When installing an IT solution to achieve this goal, it’s important to consider the following:
- Security – in the past year alone, 76% of secondary and 41% of primary schools have experienced a breach or attack. For many institutions, it’s necessary to step up security and ensure data is protected.
- Personalisation – creating a truly pupil-centred approach that meets individuals needs and provides flexibility gives pupils more control over their learning.
- Provision for mobile – particularly for home usage, an extension of a typical BYOD policy is to expand the capability to all devices, not just desktops and laptops. This ensures content is accessible on whatever devices pupils may have available to them.
- Cost – an important consideration for stretched school budgets should be limiting additional costs. Beyond the initial start-up, IT managers should consider scale-up, licensing and software add-on costs to avoid problems further down the line.
Virtual desktop infrastructure
Virtualisation is an optimum choice of IT solution that allows students access to material both at home and in the classroom to create a flexible and personalised learning environment. Plus, with technologies such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and remote desktop services (RDS), schools can scale both computer and networking capabilities without expensive hardware.
A virtual remote learning environment enables admins to protect pupil and staff data with encryption protocols and advanced filtering and allows IT to manage it. Shared applications and data resources can be stored on-premise, in the cloud or a hybrid of both, reducing the possibility of data breaches. It’s particularly useful for setting homework, revision and continuing classwork, allowing pupils to both engage with material remotely or in-person with their own personalised learning portal.
Remote application delivery
Remote application delivery solution is also worth considering as it makes VDI more intuitive and affordable. The best work with VDI, RDS, Windows Virtual Desktop and Remote PC to ensure that users can access all the apps they need to learn from anywhere smoothly and easily. It also offers more flexibility and the security needed to manage pupil and staff data. Look for a solution that uses multi-device, multi-app workflows and supports multi-cloud deployments, including Microsoft Azure (Azure IaaS) and Amazon Web Services™ (AWS).
An important consideration is also that systems are adaptable and will allow you to mix and match different operating systems. For example, applications can be deployed on-premises but then scaled out to hybrid or public cloud, with auto-provisioning and auto-scaling to ensure that as demand fluctuates, schools can be best placed to respond.
Rethinking traditional teaching
Schools have an opportunity to take the lessons they learned from remote learning during the pandemic to redesign the traditional teaching format in favour of a more collaborative alternative using virtualisation. Though for school- and college-aged children, face-to-face time is still vitally important, a VDI, RDS or Remote PC solution, along with Windows Virtual Desktop integration, enables this balance to be struck by moving towards hybrid learning to make better use of face-to-face time when it resumes.
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