Learning and business continuity for schools through COVID-19

by Aoife de Barra 27 May 2020

Ready or not: How to build learning and business continuity in schools through COVID-19

As most K-12 schools return to classroom learning, it’s likely that the online and remote learning lessons learned by educators and administrators will help deliver learning, community connections and business continuity that will shape the future of education after lockdown.

No one was prepared for the speed that COVID-19 would force schools to get learning and administration online. As the virus enforced complete and partial campus closures, schools were forced to manage a huge and unexpected disruption to business and learning.

Schools already on a digital transformation journey have adapted better than others to the crisis. But learning isn’t the only function where schools needed continuity; schools are businesses with complex user, compliance and technology needs. Everywhere continuity extends beyond the workplace, so school staff and students expect the same level of continuity, access and flexibility delivered by everyday tech.

Here’s how your school can stay connected with a stable learning and business continuity plan as we come out the other side of COVID-19.

Cross-campus business continuity

How ready was your school for online learning, teaching, administration and business before COVID-19?

Many schools — and businesses — started with either no business continuity plan, or an outdated version they’d never really expected to use.

In unprecedented times, the K-12 sector showed resilience and put people first to find a way through the immediate circumstances with as little frustration, downtime and wasted hours as possible. The lessons learned over those weeks will inform business continuity so schools will never be left underprepared for online learning or administration again.

Your back office online

If your school transactions are still reliant on paper forms, backend automation solutions could transform your administrative portfolio. Create an online, touchless, compliant solution when you give administrators access to:

  • online attendance, enrolment and permission forms
  • automated accounts payable
  • student records management and monitoring including health records
  • real-time communication with parents, teachers, and students across secure platforms
  • staff video conferencing options.

In a post-COVID world, contactless administration options will be part of every school’s IT plans.

Everywhere classrooms with remote learning

Some schools were ready when COVID-19 first saw campuses begin to close across Australia, and enacted tried and tested online learning systems. Most were left to create plans in a hurry to guide parents and carers through homeschooling for an indefinite period.

The most important outcome of all — student learning — demands consistent, equitable and comprehensive access to online and offline learning resources. Whether it’s a teacher in a classroom communicating with their students online, screen-to-screen learning where the teacher and students are all remote, or print packs to work through together, schools have explored all the ways to help students learn like they’re in the classroom.

Some of the lessons learned about tools for classroom continuity:

  • internet access on a school network must scale to meet demand
  • student devices and internet access must be up to the challenge — some families experienced access issues
  • interactive whiteboards allow teachers in classroom to share the whiteboard screen with students — students engaged with sharing videos and interactive content 
  • access for all students to the same resources online and offline — equity and accessibility remain important considerations for every student.

Supporting inhouse IT services

Inhouse education IT departments went into high performance mode as they raced to shift entire curriculums online. Your inhouse teams were likely under immense time and resourcing pressures — and needing to stay compliant with shifting departmental policies and guidelines.

Talk to your IT team at all levels and functions and find out what they need to deliver school business continuity:

  • a flexible network backbone ready to scale up or down
  • support from education technology experts — our team is here to help with obligation-free consultations if you need a hand
  • extra hands on deck to manage troubleshooting requests from staff and students
  • solutions like SD-WAN to drive maximum uptime by diversifying connections.

No one in your IT team has managed continuity in a global pandemic before. Try to give them the recognition and support they need to manage a stressful environment that is an ongoing state of change.

Communicating with parents and carers

Parents and carers everywhere are the end users for most learning continuity technology — they were the ones trying to login to unfamiliar systems, worrying about unreliable connections, and managing frustrated students ready to be in the classroom.

Learnings on parent needs across school business continuity include:

  • clear, simple instructions on where to access online learning materials and/or hard copy resources
  • remote support for troubleshooting online access, software, passwords and security
  • consistent online school communication via email, phone, SMS and social media
  • contactless administration and transactions.

Security is front of mind for parents if online video chats and conferencing programs are part of your learning or communication tools. As students start to return to school and take the burden of external networks, take the time to revisit your complete security approach and apply the usual safety checks you would to any software deployment.

Secure learning and business continuity plan for the business of your school

As we manage a world after COVID-19, many schools are putting business continuity planning firmly back on the agenda. It's crucial to help students adapt back into the classroom to keep learning, and that we can learn from this time of change. We’ve been given a critical insight into moving fast, what works and what doesn’t — the smarter schools will embed those learnings in continuity structures and services now, and never be caught off guard again.

Look for school IT solutions that keep students, teachers, parents and administrators connected with seamless systems that just work. That’s true continuity.

 

Talk to Ricoh about continuity for school ecosystems. Call 13 RICOH.