CARES Act Funding for Education Technology and Hybrid Learning in K-12
Hybrid learning, or blended learning, is an approach for instruction that combines face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning activities. This topic is becoming important for U.S. institutions as districts look towards re-opening schools in the fall without a COVID-19 vaccine ready. While the federal government has provided funding for school initiatives across the country, it has left re-opening decisions up to state and local health officials.
How each state will move forward with in-person instruction in the 2020-21 school year is still unknown, but the CDC guidelines are clear that schools may need to be innovative in how they hold and conduct classes.
What can K-12 schools do to prepare for the 2020-21 school year? We looked at how the federal government applies the CARES Act funding to education technology budgets at the K-12 level, and how it might help hybrid learning initiatives in the U.S.
Applying the CARES Act to Education Technology
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into effect in March 2020, allocates approximately $2 trillion to COVID-19 relief nationwide. Of that, approximately $13.2 billion goes to K-12 schools in the form of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (or ESSER). ESSER funds are made available to states based on their Title I allocations.
Each state’s education department will keep 10% of funds to spend on coronavirus-related efforts; it will then have one year to award the other 90% directly to its local school districts with the same Title 1 allocation. Any funds that the state does not award within one year will need to be returned – a “use-it-or-lose-it” type of scenario.
According to the U.S Department of Education, local districts’ ESSER money can only be spent on certain things, such as purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity in distance learning environments). These tools can be a great place to start for supporting hybrid learning.
Read the full list of state-by-state ESSER funding estimates here.
Hybrid Learning/Blended Learning in the time of COVID-19
Higher education institutions have already announced that fall classes will be held with a hybrid model. And now, some K-12 institutions are anticipating using hybrid learning to maintain social distance in the classroom.
The CDC classifies “hybrid learning” or “blended learning” as “medium-risk” for further spread of COVID-19 because small groups of students will stay together and with the same teacher throughout the school day, and students will not share objects. The organization has recommended these students avoid interacting with other students outside of their assigned groups.
EdTech Magazine has provided a few models for successfully integrating blended learning into a classroom, including how to foster a successful learning environment with student devices. We have also put together resources for online learning that can be referenced in hybrid or blended learning environments.
Funding for Hybrid Learning/Blended Learning
Schools with access to CARES Act funding for educational technology should know that selecting high-quality monitoring and device management software is key to making online learning effective. Impero Education Pro combines tools for online safety, teacher control, session tracking and real-time monitoring for student devices, regardless if those devices are on or off school campuses. Impero Education Pro is ideal for a hybrid learning/blended learning environment, as teachers can see a live thumbnail view of students’ devices, create broadcast information, and create block/allow site lists to ensure students are engaged and spending time learning as well as being able to take control of a student’s screen and give them support remotely.
No matter how much (or how little) a school is allocated CARES Act funding for education technology, Impero is making Impero Education Pro free for the remainder of the school year to districts that do not already have a remote learning software in place.