Author: Patrick Buthmann, VP Sales and Business Development, BLiNQ Networks
Since the start of the pandemic, the world has witnessed and participated in unprecedented rapid advancements in technology in the learning space. One of the key drivers of this advancement within the education space was the pressure to bring accessibility to online learning to the masses in a very short span of time. Teachers and students unaccustomed to interacting solely online were suddenly forced to deliver a full curriculum and experience the new medium of remote learning. A fundamental factor in the ability to deliver and participate in an effective online learning environment is one’s access to a reliable internet connection. Pre-existing issues with connectivity, such as the great digital divide and the lack of broadband access in rural America, have merely been amplified and were still unresolved at the time the pandemic took hold.
In this piece, we will discuss the top 4 challenges of online learning as well as a viable solution that is able to address the lack of connectivity and enable remote education:
- Lack of Internet Access
According to Pew Research Center, roughly six-in-ten students (58%) say they use the internet at their home to do homework every day or almost every day. Furthermore, roughly two-thirds of students attending suburban schools (65%) say they use the internet for homework every day or almost every day, compared with 58% who attend schools in cities, 50% of those who attend in rural areas and 44% of those attending schools in towns. Additionally, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that about one-in-five teens (17%) ages 13 to 17 said they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection.
- Safety, Security, and Privacy
With technology developing at unprecedented speeds, the need for stringent privacy, security and safety measures to be in place to protect personal information is critical. Online learning is sometimes less supervised at home, leaving users using video conference tools vulnerable to malware-style programs to access the computer without the user’s knowledge. The Private LTE Network model brings higher standards of Tier 1 cellular networks as opposed to Wi-Fi and proprietary technologies that have been traditionally used in the rural space. These are only some of the privacy and security issues facing remote online education. There are other issues such as data breaches, data loss, and system disruptions that are not only a vulnerability of the EdTech sector, but any industry. These issues are common with software programs and internet usage, and any security malfunction can be costly to an organization. However, with upgradable technology inherent in LTE networks, wireless operators network managers can better protect users to keep personal data confidential and have more control of their personal information.
- Many Educational Institutions Were Not Prepared
The pandemic forced schools to rapidly switch to remote and online solutions. This expedited need to digitally transform did not give many educational institutions the opportunity to evaluate and adjust their infrastructure to address security and privacy issues, and more importantly, to make necessary accommodations for people who did not have access to devices and or the internet.
The new online learning environment created needs for students and teachers to use new tools they may not have had access to, and the sudden pressure for teachers to set up and conduct lessons online was unanticipated. Lesson planning is a meticulous task that requires a lot of time and effort, and online lessons are more labor and resource intensive, demanding greater access and the distribution of more materials. In addition, the sudden switch to remote learning has forced educational institutions to connect learning apps to school Google accounts without proper vetting or sanctioning. According to Managed Methods,some of these apps were built without proper security infrastructure in place, posing a significant threat to school data for both students and teachers.
- What Was The Immediate Response?
Educational institutions had to move quickly to address the issues they were confronted with. Some schools took swift action by providing mobile hotspots and other means of wireless internet communications to students and teachers in their communities.
Another unique solution was to broadcast classes on local television stations at certain hours. This ensured that students who had poor internet connections or no internet connection at all could have access to their lessons. Some schools also created and distributed physical take-home packets with worksheets, information guides and other detailed material that could help students.
A More Sustainable Solution
Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken significant steps to address the lack of connectivity to facilitate and enable online learning. Considering the current challenges facing the education marketplace, deploying a CBRS Private LTE Network leveraging OnGo technology is the most appropriate and robust solution. It is easy to deploy and can provide robust and secure coverage to allow for more remote learning. A Private LTE network delivers adequate broadband experience for 200 to 2000 users, making it a premier solution to deploy for educational institutions. Furthermore, the Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) portion of the solution is standardized, low cost, and easy to deploy. All necessary server infrastructure can be located on school grounds’ rooftop or monopole installations with local connectivity to fiber networks. Finally, the LTE solution is equipped with built-in monitoring and network management for appropriate control of the service.
OnGo is an opportunity for an organization to deploy its own high performing, secure private network with reduced complexity and costs. When deploying any new system, assessing both costs and benefits is an essential requirement. While the details differ with each system, once you have deployed a private LTE network to address a particular use case, the incremental cost to support additional use cases is much lower.
Want to learn more about why a CBRS private LTE network is the right solution for these challenges? Check out our education hub here.