How to Create a Safe Online Environment for K-12 Distance Learning

Octavio Hernandez

Government support to fund distance learning

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) created a $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund (ESF). Approximately, $13.2 billion was allocated to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) can use this funding within 12 categories outlined in Section 18003 of the CARES Act. Under these categories, LEAs can purchase educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) to support low-income students and students with disabilities. At this time, this is a critical lifeline for schools during the COVID-19 crisis, and an opportunity to address the homework gap and digital divide for K-12 students.

You cannot compromise safe distance learning

A successful online educational model requires school IT departments to provide staff and students with mobile devices, connectivity, and a safe learning environment. This includes safe access to online learning platforms and communication tools too. However, there are security and compliance risks for schools. This is particularly relevant given the short amount of time they’ve had to prepare for COVID-19 enforced changes and very little prior experience. Traditionally, K-12 schools rely on next-gen firewalls or web content filters that only work when students are connecting to the internet from a school location. The school environment is changing to everywhere the student’s home is!

Traditional IT security for enterprises, does not make the grade for K-12

Firewalls do a good job of identifying and counteracting security risks within the school network. However, one of the biggest problems is that they were not designed to protect cloud applications and data from the likes of G Suite or Office 365 for Education. There’s a misconception about the nature of vector attacks and security technology when it comes to cloud-based applications. Simply put, firewall security hasn’t kept up with the needs of schools and the evolution of advanced persistent threats (APTs) and malware.

Towards a safe online learning environment

The successful implementation of remote learning beyond COVID-19, requires IT leaders in K-12  to think differently. IT security is now a game of protecting the school network, the mobile devices and the students who use them. So, why not put the security mechanisms on the mobile network the devices use instead?

At Asavie, we built our product philosophy on the principle of zero-trust, no bypass security. We put the SIM at the root of trust. When you tie policy controls back to the SIM in a device you can see and control all IP traffic. This way, schools can prevent access to harmful content in compliance with Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) regulations. At the same time, IT admins can prevent phishing attacks and other types of malware before they reach students.

Collaboration is key for safe eLearning

The collaboration between technology providers and educators creates a safe online learning experience for K-12 students. In this environment, they can thrive and make the most of the learning process. On this topic, our partner AT&T have discussed the importance of the internet for K-12 and hi-ed students during COVID-19. You can read an interview with AT&T’s Mo Katibeh here.

Learn more about how Asavie helps K-12 schools create a safe distance learning experience for teachers and students.