Setting Your Scholar Up for Online Learning

Setting Your Scholar Up for Online Learning

Schools around the world have closed their doors during the COVID-19 crisis, students from kindergarten through graduate school are being asked to learn online. It’s a change for everyone, but having the right technology in place can help with the transition.

Your student may have been using the Microsoft Office suite of software at school. If you don’t have Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint at home, check if your school is providing licenses or free software.

If not, buying a subscription to the online Microsoft 365 package allows you to pay monthly or yearly, and it’s much more affordable than in the past. One month is about the cost of two cups of coffee.

Otherwise, your student may be able to get work done using Google’s suite of tools. Teachers may accept links to Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides. These free options are also useful when your student needs to work on a group project. People can collaborate online in real-time using the G-Suite software.

Teleconferencing with Teachers and Peers

Your student is likely to need to download teleconferencing software such as Zoom or Skype. Beware! Cybercriminals take advantage of every opportunity. Noticing the increased demand for these services, they’ve set up bogus sites. Make sure that you are downloading from the legitimate sources: www.skype.com or www.zoom.us.

While we’re talking about teleconferencing, you might pass on these best practices:

  • Use headphones to limit audio distractions.
  • Join calls from a low-traffic setting with simple backgrounds.
  • Ask others at home to avoid downloading, streaming, or backing up while the student is live online.
  • Connect to the router with a network cable, or at least be as close to the wireless router as possible during the call.

Considering Cybersecurity

In addition to setting up fake teleconferencing sites, cybercriminals have other ways to exploit the situation.

Remind any students learning from home that they need to keep their username and password private. This is a lesson that never gets old.

Are you still using Windows 7 on a home computer? This popular operating system (OS) reached the end of its life in January 2020. Yes, it may still work, but it is no longer receiving security updates from Microsoft, and the bad guys know Windows 7 is vulnerable. Continuing to use this OS puts you at risk. Without new upgrades, you’re no longer protected from vulnerabilities or exploits.

You probably already know to avoid using public wireless networks. Although your students can’t go to a coffee shop or public library right now to get online, reminding students to secure their online activity is critical.

This is a good time to review your Wi-Fi setup. Too many homeowners don’t change the default username and password on their routers. Big mistake. You should also:

  • hide your Wi-Fi network from public view;
  • set your network up to encrypt transmissions;
  • update router software regularly.

A Focus on Learning

There’s one more thing parents and guardians might consider. At school, the computers prevent students from going to certain sites or downloading files, but you may not have the same blocking and filtering set up on your home devices. This can be addressed in settings.

If you have to share a computer, set up a student-specific user profile to:

  • prevent your student from getting distracted during learning;
  • limit exposure to malware and cyberthreats;
  • avoid them accessing any of your work files.

You may feel isolated during the coronavirus quarantine, but you’re not alone. Our tech experts can help you set up and secure your technology for work or school from home. Give us a call today at 276.696.7163.

 

Essentials for Empowering Remote Work

Essentials for Empowering Remote Work

Essentials for Empowering Remote Work

COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to embrace remote work. The technology needed to enable people to work from home has existed for years, but working from home may be new for you and your employees. Here are some essentials you need to address to empower your remote workers.

What technology do you have or need? Your people may have business laptops and phones, or perhaps you already allowed employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. So, remote work isn’t going to be as much of a change. Your people already have the tools they need.

However, a business that wasn’t doing any of this before might need new hardware. You can’t expect your employees to lug heavy desktop computers home.

You may need to ask employees to use their own personal computers and phones. That’s going to require some ground rules. For one, no Windows 7: that operating system is out of date and no longer supported by Microsoft, which means employees could be putting corporate data at risk of cyberattack.

  • Establish strict policies for securing devices accessing business networks.
  • Communicate reporting procedures for the loss/theft of a device.
  • Enable mobile monitoring management of all devices that give IT access.
  • Encourage regular backup of mobile devices.
  • Educate employees to regularly update firewall and anti-virus software.
  • Prohibit third-party apps.
  • Set devices to make users aware that they may be connecting to unsafe networks.

Challenges of the Remote Work Environment

In the office environment, there is business technology consistency. Now, you’re supporting various hardware and networking solutions of different quality. This can be a headache to get up and running, yet you need to support your remote employees. What kind of IT desk help will you offer? People are now working wherever they are, whenever they want.

The “wherever they are” part can raise some issues. Employees could log in from public parks, coffee shops (if any are open), or while at home with the kids. This means fresh threats. Laptops can get stolen. People out in the world could look over your employee’s shoulder and read what’s on the screen. Kids can spill juice in a split second! Install remote management software to enable a complete wipe of lost or stolen laptops. Also, implement encryption, data backup, and screen-locking features to help keep data secure.

Saying people can work “whenever they want” also has its challenges. With everyone stuck at home, a 9-5 schedule for office productivity may be impossible. Toddlers don’t really understand that “Mommy’s working,” do they?

It’s a good idea to establish clear expectations from the outset:

  • How will progress be demonstrated?
  • How can employees check-in with managers?
  • What are the expectations for team collaboration?
  • What software will be used for group chat, video, or conference calling?
  • What is acceptable business-hour flexibility?

If you’re going to allow people to set their own hours, IT support needs to be flexible, too.

Supporting Remote Work

The good news is that remote work can be productive, too. In fact, a Stanford University study found remote employees did an extra day’s work per person per week.

We can help you set up your technology to support your remote staff. We’ll make sure your hardware is up to scratch, secure those mobile devices, and be your remote IT help desk at odd hours. Contact us today at 276-696-7163!