The Challenge: Adult Nonprofit Charter School Needed to Implement and Support Remote Learning Quickly
Community IT guided this client in implementing remote learning quickly, and supported staff and students with this complicated and wide-ranging change to their education model.
The client offers adult education, GED, and workforce development courses at a community-based campus. This school educates about 450 students with about 70 staff in administrative and teaching roles. Their campus-based learning addresses critical education and social needs of low-income and low-literacy level adults to move these students out of poverty and into the workforce.
With the onset of Covid19 in the spring of 2020 the school shut down in-person learning and realized quickly they would have to move to a 100% virtual online instruction model for the 2020-2021 school year, because their typical student is in high-risk groups for severe covid19 outcomes.
This meant that an existing four-year technology project plan to move to cloud-based and remote learning support had to be implemented in about two and a half months, with many students and staff who were technology novices.
The Solution: Strategic IT Planning, Software Selection, Implementation, Training, and Help Desk Support by Community IT, Utilizing the IT Business Manager to Coordinate Institutional Change Management
Community IT Innovators had been the MSP technology provider for this charter school for more than four years and had already helped develop a strategic technology roadmap for the client to guide their investment and grant applications for long-term technology upgrades, including the capacity to teach more students remotely.
The plan and budget had already been created through strategic planning over the previous year. Having the plan, budget, and technology relationships ready to go allowed them to apply for funding quickly, when the need was acute.
Community IT was able to apply our knowledge of the client culture and needs, and act as a trusted intermediary with technology vendors, which allowed the client to confidently narrow their education software choices, and save time viewing only software demos that addressed their specific criteria.
Some grants the client received covered investment in equipment for all the students; and for the administrators and teachers everything had to be moved into the cloud so they could continue to work off-site. Community IT continued providing MSP support, monitoring student devices, backups, security, and providing tech support to all students and staff.
Community IT and the client also prioritized investing in managing extensive and ongoing training for the students and staff, realizing that this total change to the learning environment would need coordinated help desk support to work.
Community IT and other consultants provided support on these tech projects:
- Administering students’ personal info and user data in the cloud using Microsoft Office 365
- Implemented easy-to-use single sign on solution (SSO) as security measure that would provide protection but not deter low-literacy learners from accessing classes and course-work
- Implementing and rolling out AutoPilot/InTune to easily deploy about 400 computers
- Supporting staff and teachers in moving to near 100% remote work
Three challenges required extra attention:
- configuring almost 400 new devices remotely
- removing traditional hassles from accessing the technology while providing a secure online student environment
- providing ongoing tech support for large to small issues that could derail learning and adoption of the new virtual technology
Microsoft Windows Autopilot/InTune was selected to allow Community IT to configure hundreds of devices remotely, saving about 80% of in-person configuration time. Where it usually would take about an hour to configure a laptop Autopilot takes about 10 to 15 minutes. This was an ideal solution that joins computers to a cloud domain and allows remote standardized configuration from a central console. Once laptops are configured through Autopilot, InTune also allows Community IT techs to monitor and upgrade software touchlessly, install software and security, and provide help desk support easily. Autopilot/InTune also allows for greater security and theft prevention/laptop recovery.
To provide a hassle-free way for students to interact with the new technology, Community IT used the education-oriented single sign on (SSO) software Clever. It was essential that students have a good sign in experience with all software so they would continue using the new system. Clever reduces the barriers to using education technology, allowing the students to focus on the schoolwork and the Community IT techs to focus on keeping all the devices operating smoothly.
Community IT and the client invested heavily in training for the client but also additional training for the tech support team to ensure students and staff could be quickly and cheerfully helped. In addition to the IT Business Manager, Community IT provided a dedicated help desk coordinator and a help desk team with extensive training on the client’s systems and FAQs. Community IT provided teacher training on running Zoom classrooms, created mini training videos on common issues, and responded with agility to emerging issues to keep them from derailing staff trust in the technology and in the implementation plan.
The Result: Remote Learning Adaptation in Challenging Circumstances
Community IT’s strategy matched the client’s needs in this rapid implementation.
After a whirlwind implementation, the client is supporting about 400 low-literacy students in 100% online learning. Although the disruption to their on-campus learning model was extensive, their mission is continuing and actually expanding as they see their enrollment grow. In the future they will explore a hybrid model to provide on-campus or remote learning for students, but this bold experiment has shown this school possibilities they had planned for were achievable through internal leadership, strong technology relationships, and coordinated strategies.
Having an assessment and strategic plan/budget already in place was crucial to implementing this change at this speed. Calling on existing relationships was also vital. The Community IT Business Manager brought his deep understanding of the client culture to managing the transition, and also utilized his own experience as a parent of a student learning remotely, which allowed him to identify the challenges the adult learners at this client would face.
The whole school was transformed in how they do things in an entirely new technology environment. This would not have been possible without client leadership and investment in training and tech support. When implementing a total change, investment in technology support can be the difference between success and failure.
“The biggest challenge in this project was that it was a huge change for the client. All the pieces were moving at the same time, needing strong coordination. The client embraced the need for change, providing institutional support and leadership. They took it seriously and were committed to change. They didn’t give up, even when things got challenging. Everyone needed to use patience when something is so stressful and hard as this project, and the role of the IT Business Manager is to coordinate a center to the project, a place where problems get handled. Given that almost every school in the US is facing remote learning challenges right now, this client showed the way to address these challenges with firmness of purpose and the right technology partners.”– Norwin Herrera, Community IT
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Community IT’s strategic guidance, proactive approach, and implementation-specific teams with great depth and varied technical expertise helped this client realize their technology goals.
Community IT was able to help the client move to the right IT solution for their remote learning implementation. We are always ready to support our clients face their real needs and constraints. We use our IT and nonprofit expertise to guide clients as they navigate their changing IT needs, as shown in this Remote Learning Implementation Case Study. You can be sure we are dedicated to the success of your mission and will help you find the solution that fits you.