The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as an adaptive challenge for educational institutes. It has disrupted the normal operations of schools and universities, impacting approximately 1.18 billion students worldwide due to school closures.
As state organizations continue to decide the fate of traditional classroom education, many leading educational institutes have switched to remote learning as a viable and safe teaching alternative.
What is remote learning?
Contrary to the traditional classroom environment, remote learning involves the exchange of information between teachers and students across a virtual or digital platform.
Educators use technology such as discussion boards, video conferencing tools, and online assessments to relay course syllabus to students. The remote learning model ensures that students continue their education in a safe environment despite the current turmoil surrounding education systems.
However, it has required many K-12s and universities to make impromptu changes to their administrative and logistical processes.
When pushed to closure in March, many educational institutes had to issue urgent 1:1 deployments of IT devices for all students and teachers to facilitate remote learning.
John Schutte, an IT Director of a Canadian school district says the switch was immediate and they had yet to overcome numerous hurdles:
“We had no time to plan — our local government here announced that schools were closing on Sunday afternoon for Monday. It was a surprise, a crisis emergency mode… Prior to COVID-19, it was fairly low usage on all of those online tools.”
Challenges faced by school administrations in implementing remote learning
However, urgent planning wasn’t the only concern in this situation. The IT teams of many K-12s had to contend with the following challenges:
- Fast distribution of nearly thousands of Chromebooks to their students and staff
- Efficiently guiding teachers and students through the video conferencing tools and online learning platforms such as Google Classroom
- Keeping track of an expanding enterprise-level software environment
- Responding to increasing IT helpdesk requests about technical issues
- Enrolling students and teachers in the designated software tools
- Reducing the security risk associated with storing the personal and educational data of students in the cloud
Remote learning has put IT administration of various institutions to test. In addition to tackling the challenges listed above, they must also ensure the accountability of their IT devices.
In 2013, an internal audit of the School District of Philadelphia revealed that 11 schools lost almost $200K worth of assets, including IT assets, due to inaccurate asset management practices.
With remote operations, schools and universities run an even higher risk of losing their IT devices. It may cost them millions of dollars a year. An effective IT asset management software can mitigate this risk and help you regain visibility and control over your remote IT assets.
5 ways you can streamline your remote learning workflows with IT asset management software
AssetSonar’s IT asset management solution offers multiple features that you can use to monitor your remote IT landscape and streamline your online education processes. Below, we outline 5 ways you can achieve this.
1. Remote tracking of IT devices
Successful 1:1 deployment for remote education requires extensive distribution of IT assets to staff and students. IT Admins need to conduct fast asset checkouts in bulk. Typically, the following hardware is checked out to students for remote learning purposes:
- A personal computer or laptop
- A mobile device (smartphone, iTouch, iPad)
- A headset consisting of microphone and speakers
- A webcam
Most of these devices are high-performance and costly. They even store valuable student records, which are mandatory to protect under FERPA compliance. Therefore, remote oversight of this hardware is crucial.
AssetSonar facilitates remote tracking of your school’s hardware. It keeps a centralized database of all your IT assets and peripherals and their availability status. We offer out-of-the-box integrations with Jamf Pro, and Microsoft SCCM and Intune so you can mass import your IT assets from these device managers into AssetSonar.
The system also offers a pre-configured Agent that you can install in your devices before checking them out to their respective users. Our Agent-based discovery detects IT assets, even when they’re being used off school premises.
Furthermore, you can create separate bundles of IT assets and peripherals for each student and teacher to carry out faster checkouts of multiple items. AssetSonar maintains a check-in/checkout history of each asset.
You can access this information in the form of reports whenever an audit period begins. Our custody verification feature enables you to verify possession of IT devices checked out to remote students and employees, thereby improving accountability and lowering overheads linked with missing or stolen hardware.
Pro tip: Add all your staff and students as Staff Users in AssetSonar. They can then simply use the AssetSonar mobile app to check out the devices themselves — facilitating a contactless pickup process. You can also empower them to carry audits in a similar manner, where they have to scan a barcode and indicate that they have the device.
2. License management of remote learning applications
Many institutions are using software applications to facilitate remote student learning and provide social care and interaction to their communities during periods of school closure. While some of these applications are free, others charge licensing fees for enterprise-level usage.
Here are some common software applications used by schools for remote education:
- Resources to provide psychosocial support
- Digital learning management systems such as Google Classroom, Moodle, etc.
- Remote education systems for strong offline functionality
- Massive open online course (MOOC) platforms e.g. Coursera and Udemy
- Self-directed learning content applications, for example, Khan Academy, Duolingo
- Collaboration platforms that support live-video communication such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams
- Tools for teachers to create digital learning content e.g. Nearpod, Trello, etc.
When K-12s are using enterprise packages of these applications, it is imperative that they keep track of their licensing requirements.
Missing license renewals of such big accounts can cost thousands of dollars in true-up costs and legal penalties. It can even interrupt your use of software applications, thereby disrupting normal classroom sessions.
Monitoring your software licensing framework is painstaking, especially when your IT assets and software users are dispersed. AssetSonar makes software license management a breeze.
It stores a comprehensive repository of the On Premise and Cloud software applications used across all your IT assets and alerts you when their respective licenses are about to expire. This way, you can prompt license and warranty renewals and make timely fee payments.
AssetSonar also runs detailed reports to uncover usage instances of unlicensed or blacklisted software.
This gives you extra control over your software. You can even glean over software utilization patterns and cater to the expanding software needs.
Our software license management tool ensures continuous use of key software applications and facilitates seamless classroom operations.
3. IT service management for uninterrupted classroom sessions
The onset of remote learning culture has slammed IT help desks of many schools and universities. IT teams see hundreds of troubleshooting and onboarding requests on a daily basis, adding more pressure amid several other administrative responsibilities.
Troubleshooting errors and servicing IT assets shouldn’t take hours or else it can interrupt classroom activities, impacting the entire schedule.
AssetSonar integrates with leading service desks such as Zendesk and Jira so you can expedite your troubleshooting and issue resolution processes. Give teachers and students the Staff User privileges in AssetSonar so they can create service tickets directly from within AssetSonar whenever they need help using their IT assets.
This flags the relevant assets for maintenance and notifies your team what needs to be worked on. Our system also maintains a log of Requesters so you know which user to contact for a given issue.
Pro tip: You can introduce a self-service mechanism to efficiently handle the uptick in onboarding requests. Upload user manuals and onboarding guides for each IT asset that you check out to staff and students. With Staff User access, they can easily view how to set up their devices and install the relevant software applications for remote education.
A self-service portal acquaints your users with technology and empowers them to resolve half of the issues on their own. It also lowers the burden on your IT Admins so they can respond to troubleshooting requests faster, thereby ensuring uninterrupted classroom sessions.
John Schutte says the following about implementing a self-service portal:
“We’re not doing busy work — we’re doing higher-value work for our staff.”
4. Automated user provisioning for faster student enrollment
Another limitation for K-12s is to retrieve the student and teacher data from bulky Active Directories and compile a list of users to dispatch IT devices to.
These users must also be provisioned access to certain online learning and collaborative tools. Doing so manually can take up days and leave your teaching staff and students frustrated.
AssetSonar supports the SCIM protocol and integrates with applications like Azure AD, Okta and OneLogin so you can pull up details of all your stakeholders from your Active Directories.
Automate user provisioning and give access rights to your students and staff for applications including AssetSonar, service desks, and collaboration tools, etc. Automated user provisioning means you can accelerate your administrative procedures and enroll teachers and students faster.
5. Security protocols for FERPA compliance
FERPA compliance mandates educational institutes to protect the personal and educational records of their students. For this reason, schools must put certain cybersecurity protocols in place to protect their data.
Monitoring school-owned IT devices and software is harder, given the remote e-learning circumstances. Questions like “Are the IT devices firewall-protected?” or “Are the students using their school laptops or personal devices to access information?” can keep your IT teams up at night.
AssetSonar eases your security concerns. It runs Disk Encryption and Firewall Status checks to ensure all your remote IT devices are firewall protected and their hard disk data resides in an encrypted form.
You can also tighten access control by creating Custom Roles and giving view-only access to your students and teachers so they cannot tamper with any data stored in AssetSonar.
Moreover, the entire AssetSonar database is hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure. AWS is designed to meet several security standards including ISO 27001, SOC 1, 2 and 3, FISMA, DIACAP, etc. and ensures that your data is always protected and you’re FERPA compliant.
Kick-start remote education for your upcoming fall term with AssetSonar’s IT asset management software
Until a definite decision regarding traditional classroom operations is made, most institutes are likely to adopt a blended learning approach. With the fall term approaching soon, IT leaders need to be proactive in developing a sound IT asset management infrastructure.
An all-round solution is IT asset management software that keeps a consolidated database of their IT hardware and software, expedites service management and student enrollment, and safeguards student data off-premises too.
With AssetSonar, you can reimagine your IT management processes, build extensive onboarding knowledge bases, ace software license compliance audits, and ensure that your remote classroom operations run smoothly at all times. Kickstart your fall term with us!
AssetSonar is the leading school IT asset management software. It offers powerful and intuitive remote management of your K-12’s hardware and software tools so you can focus on delivering quality education.
Sign up and use our mobile app to access your IT asset data from anywhere, at any time.