Maximizing Your CARES Act Funding for Remote Learning Solutions

Posted in: Education , UC&C

By Lianna Russell on Feb 15, 2021

In 2020, administrations were faced with evaluating how to realistically transition to virtual learning environments. In many cases, schools around the world chose to adopt technology-driven solutions that established a new remote learning infrastructure. Similar to the lessons learned in conjunction with the rise of the remote workforce, many students, teachers and faculty quickly learned that there are both benefits and disadvantages to a virtual classroom structure.

Still, there’s a profound consensus amongst educational institutions across the U.S. that not only is it counterproductive to cease all prior efforts in strengthening distance learning capabilities, but—particularly as many stakeholders see it—there’s also a unique window of opportunity to utilize the newly sanctioned Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEER-II) through the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA).

Also called “CARES 2.0,” the CAA provides over $22 billion dollars to higher education institutions in the U.S., with a mandate stating that 50% must be spent on student aid. So, how can schools effectively allocate the other half of HEER-II funding?

The U.S. Department of Education affirms that 50% can be used “to purchase equipment or software, pay for online licensing fees, or pay for internet service to enable students to transition to distance learning (…).” This means that colleges and universities can work with remote learning solution providers and adopt an audiovisual solution that’s the right fit and scale.

Fortunately, Vistacom’s team of AV Design Engineers, Programmers, Project Managers, Service and Integration Technicians have all worked in a deeply collaborative way over the past year to bring a variety of instructional delivery and specialized interactive remote learning solutions to the market.

Portable Video Conferencing

Educators need flexibility in remote learning without diminishing the experience, while administrations are looking for AV technology solutions that aren’t necessarily permanent installations. Thus, mobile solutions can be deployed to solve a wide range of classroom complications in remote learning. Whether students are learning with pre-recorded lessons (asynchronous), real-time engagement (synchronous) or a hybrid solution that offers both, portability is not just a convenient byproduct—it’s a practical distance learning application.

Video conferencing carts are equipped with state-of-the-art AV systems that are cost-effective and customizable. Instructors can directly connect remote students to their classrooms and the content being presented with the added feeling of being immersed in a real-life classroom environment. High-quality two-way audio and crystal-clear video enable real-time interaction as well as enhanced lecture capture and streaming. What’s more, the carts allow institutions to re-purpose video conferencing setups that are innately platform agnostic and can be integrated with any collaboration tool or learning management system. With such a flexible video conferencing solution that can be moved and re-deployed across campuses, educators will have easy access to a setup that’s simple, yet effective. Plus, minimizing technical disruptions makes everyone happy, right?

A Dynamic Virtual Classroom

In some instances, a dedicated AV system may be the most apt solution. Online education is becoming more central to course planning and curriculum at-large, both to ensure continuity during the pandemic and institutional resiliency as stakeholders prepare for the future of higher education. Hence, with longevity in mind, an integrated virtual classroom affords educators the ability to teach live to a fully remote classroom. These virtual scenarios can encompass a variety of set ups, including studio environments for pre-recorded lesson presentations, fully integrated tele-presence classrooms and simplified all-in-one video bar solutions.

Vistacom specializes in AV solutions that have direct integration with the leading service providers like Zoom and MS Teams; administrations won’t need to scrap standardized communication practices. Dynamic audio, video and content sharing give the instructor optimized control in what feels like a traditional classroom. This deployment can take on formats that are tailored to meet the school’s specific needs, including options such as:

  • Professional-grade conferencing solutions allowing students to have the most optimal view of both the instructor and the content without having to sacrifice the quality of the video or audio
  • Presenter-tracking camera technology allowing instructors to move around the classroom freely, eliminating the need to alter the teaching style that they are used to
  • Easy-to-use studio technology to pre-record lessons ranging from simple audio recording or podcast style to full audio and video lecture capture utilizing creative presentation tools such as Learning Glass
  • Built-in automated tools for student engagement and enhanced collaboration giving students the feeling of being fully immersed in the physical classroom

Future Proofing Your Technology Investment

Additionally, when deploying a remote learning solution, it’s critical for schools to deploy technology that not only actually makes instruction and important hands-on lessons employable, but also enables institutions to repurpose these solutions as students begin to return to the physical classroom. Technology-enabled classrooms and any added video conferencing integrations can be designed to promote real-time collaboration and active learning, either in one classroom, across the campus, on-site and/or remotely, both during a pandemic as well as when we return to normal.

Investing in a solution like this concretizes ROI because it allows instructors to operate one solution that can easily transition from online instruction to a hybrid model and vice versa. Imagine how pedagogy can be transformed into something truly beneficial for all students by deploying a dynamic environment with technology that enhances the learning experience rather than distracts.

New Funds, New Tech, New Education

If we put the onus solely on educators to break down the barriers of remote learning, students will inevitably experience a stifled learning experience. We know that flexibility, effective communication and strong engagement is key. So, since HEER-II funding will soon be made available specifically to enhance distance learning, institutions have the opportunity to invest in quality learning solutions and work with an AV integrator that specializes in making instruction easierno matter the application or budget.

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