Educators began 2020 focused on familiar challenges: putting together effective lessons, motivating students and preparing for tests. Students geared up for common milestones like the end of the school year and the approach of summer. Few could have imagined that now almost a year later, the pandemic is still affecting students and teachers worldwide, as many institutions continue to operate online or have implemented a hybrid approach of online and in-person learning. As educators continue to adapt to teaching online, institutions face complex questions about the future of their students’ education.
Challenges of Online Learning
At the beginning of April 2020, UNESCO estimated that almost 1.6 billion K-12 students were affected due to 194 country-wide school closures. In-classroom teaching needed to rapidly shift to online learning, with limited or no guidelines in place. With the start of 2021, most schools across the globe have fully or partially opened. However, 12 countries, including the United States, institutions still remain closed or partially closed, affecting 1.4 million students. Teachers and students are still facing similar challenges as they continue to adjust to online learning:
- Access to devices – The shift to online learning opens a divide between students who have access to a computer or device and those who do not. Many governments are attempting to bridge that gap by providing equipment to students. For example, the UK Education Secretary announced a plan to provide laptops, tablets and routers for disadvantaged students. Many states and cities in the United States are also providing funding and equipment for underprivileged households. Additionally, the March 2020 CARES Act provided states $13.5 billion in K-12 formula grants to assist schools in the continuation of learning through online resources. In December 2020, the CARES Act was extended to include $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, and $22.7 billion for higher education.
- Bandwidth and Connectivity – The use of video conferencing platforms has increased significantly as institutions implement online learning. But using these applications successfully requires a secure connection and stable bandwidth from both a teacher and student’s home. With everyone functioning outside the school’s network, schools lack the visibility and control to ensure connectivity and bandwidth create a seamless user experience.
- Security – Reports of “meeting bombing” during online classes have escalated, requiring teachers and app providers to rapidly adjust to provide a more secure learning environment. Application vendors provide some security controls, but they need to be used according to best practices for video conferencing security. In some cases, additional security tools may be needed. Schools need to ensure that online learning remains a safe place for students.
Enable Online Learning While Staying Secure
As schools continue to adjust to the evolving online learning landscape, they can take proactive steps towards providing a secure and seamless user experience by partnering with the right security vendors. Cloud-based solutions offer schools the flexibility to rapidly deploy remote learning environments while keeping teachers and students safe.
Educational institutions shouldn’t have to worry about protecting teachers and students as they adapt to virtual learning. Palo Alto Networks solutions offer schools and other businesses peace of mind so they can focus on what is important. Meanwhile, Palo Alto Networks works in the background to protect users, apps and data no matter where they are located. Establishing a remote workforce quickly is no easy task, but Palo Alto Networks can provide rapid deployment and scale with over 100 locations globally.
- Prisma Access, part of our secure access service edge (SASE) solution, securely connects remote or mobile users to your corporate networks through the cloud. By utilizing the cloud, organizations can quickly scale to meet user demand and availability.
- GlobalProtect provides additional protection on users’ mobile devices. As an application, GlobalProtect can help organizations ensure users are connecting to the best gateway available to their location, and that all their traffic is encrypted via IPsec/SSL VPN tunnels as it passes through Prisma Access.
Together, Prisma Access and GlobalProtect provide a complete solution to protect devices and users, while ensuring bandwidth and user experience aren’t sacrificed. Online learning is in demand now, but educational institutions can look for these benefits no matter what the learning landscape becomes in the future.
- Enhanced user experience – Prisma Access automatically determines which cloud connection is best per the user’s location, with over 100 locations to choose from. This provides faster access to the internet and improved Quality of Service to reduce latency.
- Always-on security – The GlobalProtect app works quietly in the background on users’ devices to provide consistent encrypted security to corporate networks. Prisma Access provides more protection than other MPLS alternatives.
- Rapid deployment – Whether you are deploying on-premises, using VM-Series or in the cloud, Palo Alto Networks allows you to rapidly scale your remote network.
Learn more about Palo Alto Networks remote workforce offerings and see how we can help your educational institution focus on learning, while we take care of the security.
Updated Jan. 7, 2021