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Enabling High-Performance Computing in K-12 and Higher Education
School districts and universities across the country are navigating many challenges as they continue to shift toward virtual instruction in online learning environments. While some are prioritizing the basics out of necessity—making sure students have a working device and internet access—others are beginning to turn their attention to users with high-performance computing needs.
Distance learning has cut many students, faculty, and researchers off from access to powerful school-based workstations. Prior to school closures, these workstations were used to run high-end and specialized software applications. Given that most at-home devices provide insufficient computing power to accomplish heavy computational workloads, research and learning have slowed or ceased completely. This has negative implications for critical learning opportunities and the ability to conduct research, but will also result in a long-term impact to current students’ skill development and future job prospects.
Areas of study that require high-performance computing power are in line with the growing need for professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This trend is reflected in the U.S. Department of Education’s $540 million investment in STEM via discretionary and research grants. To mitigate the effects of STEM learning gaps, school district and university IT departments must be swift to identify cost-effective solutions for remote high-performance computing.
Remote learning gaps
Students at all academic levels are subject to learning gaps as a result of unexpected school closures. While the challenges school districts and universities face may differ, the urgent need for more robust online learning capabilities applies across the board. This comes with additional considerations for students engaged in STEM learning at K-12 and higher education institutions.
Disruptions to K-12 STEM education
When compared to higher education, K-12 districts began scaling their remote learning efforts from a disadvantaged starting point. Many colleges and universities have some existing form of remote infrastructure in place, as online classes have been a regular part of higher education for years. For K-12, however, remote learning presents a more complicated set of challenges to overcome.
Given the absence of basic remote infrastructure, school districts have been scrambling to implement distance learning for student populations with highly diverse needs. The dynamic nature of this fast-changing situation also means that many K-12 IT professionals are having to adapt their strategies in real time. This survival-mode approach means STEM learning that requires computing capabilities unavailable to students on personal devices is not a priority. But it should be.
Programs like career and technical education (CTE), which used to offer an alternative to college by preparing high school students for skills-based careers, have evolved into rigorous academic programs that now prepare them to study college-level technical subject matter. This includes focus areas like architecture and engineering, design and animation, and information technology.
Millions of K-12 students enroll in these programs every year. By failing to connect them to compute cycles that are critical to research and learning, students are missing out on important training opportunities that will prepare them for life in college and beyond.
Disruptions to college STEM education
As mentioned, most colleges and universities have existing remote learning infrastructure to build upon. While it’s unlikely that many were prepared to rapidly scale their online learning environments, the widespread availability of online classes gives university IT departments a leg up in confronting remote learning challenges. The fact that college students are more likely to be tech savvy and to possess a personal device makes it easier to focus on more complex distance learning initiatives.
Similar to K-12 students engaged in CTE programs, college students that cannot connect to high-power workstations on campus are being denied critical learning opportunities that are vital to preparing them for the workforce. This is particularly problematic for students engaged in research and education relating to data science, engineering, design, and medical applications. It has also been hugely disruptive to ongoing research—much of which has been postponed or abandoned altogether. Some students who were set to graduate this year will even have to stay in school another year, incurring more student debt and further delaying their entry into the job market.
Remote HPC support for students
To address STEM learning gaps and their potential long-term effects, school districts and universities should invest in resources that will enable students to perform complex computing tasks from remote locations using personal devices. HP’s ZCentral Remote Boost is a pro-grade solution that harnesses the power of school-based workstations to enable high-performance computing on almost any device from anywhere.
ZCentral solutions offer a low-bandwidth way to satisfy high-power learning needs. This means students, faculty, and researchers can access applications, content, and high-performance computers on campus from a remote location—even with low-end devices and mediocre internet speeds. Simple, fast, and secure, ZCentral offers a cost-effective solution to triaging disruptions to STEM education at all levels.
Keep STEM learning in motion with a 90-day free trial of HP ZCentral Remote Boost, available for download at hp.com/ZCentralRemoteBoost.
For a more in-depth look at ZCentral, check out this informational video.
- Tech & Learning, Remote Learning and Digital Equity: Challenges and Opportunities
- STAT, COVID-19 Has Shuttered Scientific Labs. It Could Put a Generation of Researchers at Risk
- Brookings, Students Have Lost Learning Due to COVID-19. Here Are the Economic Consequences.
- U.S. Department of Education, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, Including Computer Science
- The 74, Researchers’ Urgent Message for Schools: Start Planning Now for a Precipitous “COVID Slide” Next Year
- Education Week, What Is Career and Technical Education, Anyway?
- Science, Early-Career Scientists at Critical Career Junctures Brace for Impact of COVID-19