Student Access to On-Campus IT Critical for Online Learning Success

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While students are struggling with many of the challenges that come with online learning, having the right technology tools in place is vital for distance learning to succeed. Distance learning in institutes of higher education can be more effective by providing students remote access to on-campus computer labs and IT support, according , according to a new survey released by Splashtop, an IT company focused on remote access support solutions.

The survey was given to students, faculty and IT staff in 42 countries during September and October with the goal of getting feedback on how schools are adapting during COVID-19. While about 60% of respondents were IT staff, faculty or students from institutes of higher education, (1,500 respondents out of more than 2,500) Splashtop also surveyed members of K-12 and vocational schools. For the purpose of this article, Fierce Education focused in on the higher education results. 

"By creating an integrated ecosystem of collaboration tools, e-learning platforms, and remote-access tools, distance learning can be an effective option not just during COVID-19, but beyond it, as well," said Splashtop CEO Mark Lee. "With the rapidly shifting education landscape and the rise of both remote and hybrid learning, educational institutions can deliver a more consistent learning experience through smart technology choices."

Fierce Education Virtual Event

Higher Education: Technology- Profiles in Success, Fall

Thursday, October 21 @ 1pm EST to 4:30 pm EST

Higher education institutions have had to accelerate their technology usage and investments to better engage students, ensure accessibility, and to more effectively assess knowledge and progress, while keeping their data secure.

This half-day, virtual event will showcase essential ways universities and colleges can embrace technology effectively to improve the student experience in this new blended learning world and address how the decision-making process needs be fast and inclusive to meet market demands.

According to the survey:

  • 33% of colleges offered in-person learning
  • 30% offered an all virtual learning environment
  • 30% offered a hybrid learning environment

Looking at the numbers by country, India and the United Kingdom had the largest percentage of students doing all remote learning, 54% and 41% respectively. And Canada/U.S. and France had the highest rates of a hybrid model, 35% and 46%. Moreover, Canada and the U.S. had the largest percentage of students not attending school at all for the semester (21%) due to COVID-19.

Of those colleges offering hybrid or all virtual learning, 53% said they were currently offering students access to on-campus computer labs.

The most popular programs being used to access on-campus computer labs include TeamViewer (38%), Splashtop (18%), VPN/RDP (16%) and LogMein (7%).

Surprisingly, when comparing in-person learning to the effectiveness of online learning, 40% of those surveyed said it seemed about the same, while 23% said remote learning was better, and 37% said remote learning was not as good.

Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts (CFPCA) in Detroit, has been accessing remote technology to get through the lockdown with the help from Splashtop. The school has switched to a hybrid model of learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

The computer labs at the CFPCA are a vital resource for students as they offer courses in fields such as communications, digital music recording, media production and design animation. The labs have always provided students with powerful computers to run the software they use in those fields of study.

When COVID-19 shut down the Wayne State campus, students were unable to go to the computer labs in-person. Chris Gilbert, application technical analyst at the CFPCA, said that students didn’t have computers that were powerful enough to run the software they needed for school.

“We’re finding that a lot of students buy $200 laptops,” Gilbert said, “that’s good if you’re just writing a paper, but when you’re doing a CAD drawing, it’s not really going to work for you,” Gilbert said.

As a result, Gilbert and the rest of the IT team needed to find a way to make the apps accessible all students.

“Our support is now more student-facing, and not just faculty and staff facing like it was prior to March,” Gilbert said. “I am communicating and working with more students to help them to be successful.”

Students now have access to machines which, in the past, they could only take advantage of during class time doctoral students, who are also working as teaching faculty, have access to specialized statistics software.

“We have heard from students who in their classes only use Mac computers, but they want to use a PC at home, so now they can have access to both,” said Gilbert.

Of course, implementation is not without its challenges. For example, Gilbert notes that video edits being transferred from a student's computer to the remote computer is not of the best quality due to the largeness of the files.  

Moving forward, post COVID, Wayne State intends to keep providing some remote classes; therefore, will continue a partnership with Splashtop to ensure equal access and security to all student populations.

“We are going to keep Splashtop schedule access from now on for labs to make sure every student has the chance to do their best with whatever we can provide,” Gilbert said.