Scott HanwellJanuary 28, 2021

Digital Solutions for K-12 Education: Balancing the Needs of Teachers and Students with the Demands of Decision-Makers

The public education system has long straddled the fence of hard-hitting human issues that can be improved with digital technologies, and the complexities of funding and spend. The right solutions offer a foundation for schools to bridge critical gaps and have teachers and parents make the choices they believe are best for themselves and their families. But those who make buy decisions - School Boards, Technology Directors, Superintendents - are navigating their own set of challenges to solve problems and add new value with little time (and now, budget) to do so. Yet they also know that maintaining an excellent reputation is vital for success in the K-12 sector, even (and especially) during a crisis.

We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, especially when it comes to the quality of education for 1.5 billion K-12 students across the globe. Here’s how we can move forward in 2021 - specifically with a cost-effective, all-in-one, cloud-based communications solution:

Educational Fairness 

The digital disruption brought about by COVID-19 has unlocked major potential for using cloud collaboration solutions to grant great teachers in underserved areas - regardless of location - the ability to foster new skills and opportunities that can help narrow performance gaps and level the educational playing field. Physical boundaries are no longer an issue, making it easier than ever for quality teachers to reach disadvantaged school districts with unparalleled reliability, security, and global availability (as well as a cost-effective pay-as-you-go model).

Factory-model Classroom

We must break free from the factory-model classroom (the concept of roughly 30 students of the same age being taught by one teacher in a single room, introduced in the early ’70s). In this traditional education model, each teacher works alone, isolated in their classroom (or now, home) without adequate communication or support from their school or peers. A cloud communications solution transcends this by enabling teachers to initiate video and content-sharing meetings anytime, anywhere with students, parents, peers, and administrators from within one simple app.

Schools could identify their top-performing teachers and then empower them to lead and help train others using solution features like screen share, persistent chat, and video and audio conferencing. This provides tangible benefits to teachers and students as well as buy decision-makers, who can measurably improve teacher retention and isolation. One simple app also eliminates the need to pay for separate video meeting services or deal with the hassle of system integration. It’s not an end-all solution, but an important step for bridging critical gaps. 

Individualized Learning

The traditional classroom model, where one teacher tells 30 kids to do the same things at the same time, hasn’t worked for a while now (in fact, in 1983 the U.S. federal government declared in “A Nation At Risk” that our education system was starting to slide). What we need are adaptive learning programs to tailor instruction to each student. We need to allow kids to work at their own pace, with teachers helping them set their own goals. We need to give teachers more time to focus attention on individual students or smaller groups - while others work independently - instead of always teaching the whole class at once. Doing so will improve the classroom environment, learning outcomes, and, in the long-term, the reputation of the school district as a whole.

Avaya’s VP of US Sled, Jenifer Bond, recently outlined some examples of how a cloud communications solution helps teachers deliver individualized learning. For example, a teacher can create a video of themselves ahead of time that walks students through a difficult task so that they can spend more time with children on an individual basis using tools like chat. A cloud communications solution is also easily scalable, enabling schools to bring in classroom assistants and other professionals to meet disability-related accommodations. There are even AI capabilities like AI-augmented transcription to support hearing-impaired students. Again, this is not an end-all solution but an important step at a time when we have to be the change we want to see in public education.

Family/Community Involvement

Schools must have some sort of outreach component - be it family or greater community - so it’s not just students burning themselves out at home or in a classroom. A cloud communications solution is easy for everyone to use (teachers, students, parents/guardians, partnering organizations) to ensure families and communities can actively contribute to children’s learning.

Avaya has helped several education institutions continue their feeling of connected family and community with its cloud communications solution, Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral. The solution delivers reliable remote communication and collaboration for faculty, students, and other community users with enhanced technology while leveling - if not, reducing - monthly/annual IT spend.

The Bottom Line

COVID-19 exposed longstanding cracks in the K-12 education system. A cloud-based communications solution like Avaya Cloud Office offers a win-win for those in the classroom as well as those who make technology buy decisions. Teachers and students have very real needs that can be improved, while those in charge of signing the purchase order will see reduced costs, eliminated hidden expenses, less IT burden, and one simple, single bill from one vendor.

Interested in learning more? Join us next week, on 2 February at 11:00 EST for our webinar: Avaya Cloud Office: Your All-In-One Communication Solution for Education. We’ll discuss how real customers are using Avaya Cloud Office today to unleash the benefits of a unified, all-in-one approach, to solve communications problems facing schools, school boards, and higher education institutions.  You can register here.

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Education
Digital Solutions for K-12 Education: Balancing the Needs of Teachers and Students with the Demands of Decision-Makers

Scott Hanwell

A 25-year veteran of the communications industry, Scott has held positions in finance, pricing, competitive analysis, joint venture management and product marketing across the midmarket and enterprise. He is currently responsible for marketing Avaya's enterprise core Team Engagement solutions.

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