B.C.’s Ministry of Education has struck a deal with the Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) videoconferencing company to enable teachers to communicate remotely with their students while in-class learning is suspended to prevent COVID-19’s spread.
The company will be using servers based in Canada, allowing it to fall within provincial privacy rules regarding data storage. The ministry said the application would run with added encryption to provide a safe learning platform.
Zoom has become almost a household name since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with people across business and social groups using it. The company’s stock price has more than doubled from US$62.06 on Oct. 23 to US$137.18 on April 1.
The videoconferencing is permitted under an order from Minister of Citizens Services Anna Kang people’s health information to be shared with others inside and outside of Canada.
To ensure Zoom’s use, the ministry has secured and funded licences for all K-12 public and independent schools in B.C. The ministry said this would allow consistent access for educators choosing to use it, providing more ways to communicate with students and parents.
The ministry said the licensing agreement complies with B.C.'s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to ensure safety and privacy for students.
“School technology administrators can control permissions and privileges, while disabling features that are unnecessary or inappropriate,” the ministry said.
And, students will be given unique website addresses, so they can access their virtual classroom without needing an individual account.
Zoom’s use is just one of several ways the province is working to meet students’ current needs.
Options include online learning tools or resource packages or assignments emailed or mailed from teachers to parents, the ministry said.
Educators will receive access to Zoom through their school districts this month with simple instructions on using the software.
While teachers and schools will have primary responsibility for continuous learning, government also launched Keep Learning BC on March 27, 2020:
“This is a central place where families can find ideas for everyday educational activities, links to free learning resources, as well as how to help children learn and how to ensure their well-being while they are at home,” the ministry said. “Websites will be updated on a regular basis with new materials. As of March 31, 2020, more than 136,000 visitors have accessed the Keep Learning BC website - an average of 33,786 a day.”
Schools have been directed to look at alternative approaches for continued learning for students with online working challenges that will fit with individual needs and circumstances. Some school districts may also loan computer equipment or devices to support students while they learn from home.