Education institutions have remained admirably fluid over the past year and a half through the rollercoaster of remote and hybrid learning and teaching environments–scaling systems, devices, and processes for a learn-from-anywhere structure.
These changes are working well for many. New data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) found that over half of institutional leaders plan to maintain “some or all of their emergency remote learning offerings via distance education after the pandemic.”
While the virtual learning model is largely beneficial for student continuity, K-12 districts and higher education institutions are increasingly targets for cyberattacks. Howard University and Allen Independent School District in Texas are just two recent examples.
Where do education leaders go from here? The rapid transition to remote learning was successful, but there is still much room for improvement when it comes to reducing cyber risks that threaten the continuity of operations.
In the beginning…
At the onset of the pandemic, K-12 and higher education institutions weren’t adequately prepared to handle the rapid transition to online learning. Many did not have the capabilities for distance learning for faculty and students–and few were equipped for remote staff work. Further, security processes like two-factor authentication were not in place to help protect the enterprise against the influx of cyber adversaries that capitalized on the new distributed environment.
Department silos and a lack of resources resulted in gaps between IT and security teams, leaving schools open to disruption. These gaps created risk for students, teachers, and administrators, making it impossible for IT to get ahead of threats.
Interim challenges and unequal technology access
The move to online learning also highlighted a significant disparity of access to internet and technology among disadvantaged students, making it difficult to complete daily responsibilities. According to a recent survey, 25 percent of teachers said their students still lacked adequate internet access at home for consistent participation in virtual learning.