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Guidance on E-Learning Technology: Device & Technology Needs
What devices will students need to access online learning?
Depending on the extent to which your district will use technology-based remote learning, families will need access to digital devices and the capability of those devices will grow as you move to levels 2, 3, and 4. As a school/district, consider your readiness using the following criteria:
The school/district has limited digital devices to provide students to take home.
The school/district has limited digital devices to ensure all students have access while working in remote learning environments.
The school/district has enough digital devices to provide students that do not have personal devices to use at home.
The school/district already has a 1:1 digital device program or bring your own device (BYOD). All students have devices to support digital remote learning.
Even in low-technology alternative learning plans such as those that will rely on take-home work packets, remote learning relies upon regular communication with parents. Schools and districts will likely rely on digital communications to keep parents and students informed of organizational plans, progress updates, and expectations for student work.
As such, it is recommend schools and districts seek to understand the extent to which they are asking families to access digital devices – whether it is a computer, tablet, phone, or other type of device. Understanding what minimum needs a school or district has will then help to identify the number of students/families who will need additional resources to ensure learning progress over this time.
Resources to Consider
CDE will be maintaining a site with information for schools, districts, and parents related to online connectivity here.
Requesting support for fulfilling technology needs in your community can be done here:
- The State has created a site, Help Colorado Now, for organizations to post needs.
What amount of time will students be online and does the plan line up with internet capacity needed?
If your school/district is exploring technology based remote learning, students will not only need digital devices, but will also need internet access in order to view content from home. The district should understand the level of internet access available to homes in the community as well as the level of data coverage (dial-up, high-speed, etc.) available to individual students and families.
District and/or students have limited home internet access. Community also has limited wireless provider data availability.
District and/or students have limited home internet access, but community has moderate levels of wireless data coverage.
District and/or students have moderate levels of internet access for home. Wireless providers are available in the area with data hotspot access.
District and students have extensive internet access from home through existing providers and hot spot devices are widely available.
Especially in situations where internet access is limited, districts will want to set a general expectation for how much time students will need to spend online. For example, consider a student that is required to spend half a day online, but will need to travel to a hotspot location, and may have difficulty downloading content quickly; what may have otherwise taken 4 hours to complete could take significantly longer. Setting a reasonable expectation for internet use over the course of the day that also allows students time to successfully complete work will be an important consideration.
Depending on the need for additional bandwidth and/or the need to find ways for expanding access to internet service, districts and schools may want to include this as part of a request to the various organizations offering support.
When utilizing a physical location for students to access a hot spot for internet access, districts and schools will also need to account for the current social distancing and other guidance from the public health department.
Resources to Consider
CDE will also work to maintain the list below on their Getting Connected COVID website. Low or no cost internet resources for students during the COVID-19 emergency that we are aware of at this time are available through:
E-rate funding offers longer term support for upgrading a district broadband infrastructure. Visit the CDE E-Rate website for more information.
- Education Superhighway is an organization that offers free technical assistance and tools to school districts across the country to plan to implement a network upgrade.
Will a Learning Management System (LMS) be used to manage classes?
As schools or districts move to greater use of digital learning, a digital learning platform or "Learning Management System" (LMS) will likely be used to organize classes and educational resources for greater consistency, reliability, and access for students, teachers, administrators, and families. Learning Management Systems are also typically used to monitor student progress with course assignments as well as some potential for developing/assigning local assessments.
School/District does not have an adopted digital learning platform and teachers/students have little experience teaching and learning in this environment.
School/District uses various learning platforms but with limited to no formal training for staff and students. Use is not consistent across teachers and classes.
School/District has an identified learning platform. Staff members have been trained but use across classes and teachers is inconsistent.
School/District has adopted a learning platform. Teachers are well trained on the platform. Students are experienced in accessing learning resources and submitting assignments and activities. Parents have knowledge and experience with the learning platform.
An LMS provides a space to house content and learning resources for students in one place. An LMS also provides technology to virtually manage grades and student progress. Implementing an LMS should be viewed as an organizational IT project and so will need understanding and ownership from IT leaders in the organization. For staff, this will feel like a rollout of new software, and so schools/districts should view transition to an LMS as an organizational change initiative. Although the transition will require effort on the part of users, the potential long-term benefit to supporting remote learning can be significant.
In order to adopt an LMS for the first time or to transition to a new LMS, training will be needed for staff, students, and families. Typically, the LMS provider can help with this training. Much of it may be provided digitally as an "on-demand" resource.
Many schools and/or districts may have experiences/familiarity with Google Classrooms. This essentially is an LMS. There are other free/open-source LMS programs available as a low-cost solution. There are other providers of LMS solutions and many have expressed an interest in supporting schools or districts with a free or lower-cost solution during the COVID-19 emergency.
Use of an LMS will bring with it FERPA and other student privacy considerations. If working with a provider, you will want to make sure they are compliant both with FERPA and Colorado laws related to student privacy.
Resources to Consider
Colorado Empowered Learning (CEL), an initiative funded with support through the Colorado General Assembly, can provide support to schools and districts wishing to use an LMS. Overall, CEL has a priority to focus support for rural and remote districts, so CEL may already have working relationships with many communities; however, they are also able to support schools and districts broadly. Learn more about the broad support through CEL.
- Part of CEL, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS), provides access to Moodle, an open source LMS, via a partnership with eNet Learning. CDLS also provides support in setting up an LMS environment.
Other free or low-cost LMS solutions broadly utilized by Colorado districts & schools:
- Schoology (free accounts) and low-cost options
- Google Classroom (free)
- Moodle (free, self-hosted platform)
For more resources, visit the Getting Connected site.This site will be updated with resources as they become available.