Apr 01 2020

How Video Helps Homebound Students Stay Connected

Logitech program helps K–12 students retain friends and school ties to create a sense of normalcy.

When long-term illness prevents a child from attending school, there can be a high price to pay.

Students can fall behind on their classwork, sometimes even slipping a grade if their absence is prolonged. And there’s a social toll: Students lose touch with classmates and can suffer an emotional impact as a result of isolation.

Technology solutions provider Logitech has stepped in to help. Through the charity Hopecam, Logitech is providing free videoconferencing capability to connect homebound students to their classrooms.

“It can be life changing for a lot of these students,” says Scott Wharton, vice president and general manager of video collaboration at Logitech.

“They are already struggling with the sickness and are often demoralized, so the ability to be ‘in school’ and be a normal kid for a day gives them hope. There is an emotional power that comes with being among their friends.”

A small percentage of U.S. students are homebound — less than 1 percent, according to federal data. But for those who are, the ability to stay engaged in the classroom via video connection can have a profound impact.

DISCOVER: Videoconferencing tools help K–12 schools stay connected. Find the right ones for your school today.

There are other charities that give tablets to children with cancer. Hopecam focuses not only on the technology, but also on the human connection, by linking students to the lives they had before their diagnosis.

The Logitech team takes a hands-on approach, with a Hopecam coordinator working directly with school administrators to overcome any concerns they may have about K–12 teleconferencing. They also provide template permission letters so classmates’ parents can approve their child’s participation.

About half the students referred to Hopecam come from families for whom English is a second language, and 20 percent of them lack home internet access. With this in mind, Logitech strives to make this an easy-to-use solution.

Participants receive a tablet that has already been set up, with a video conferencing account already created and downloaded. If the family does not have an internet connection, Hopecam will pay for one for 6 to 12 months while the child is in treatment, or longer if necessary.

With Hopecam recipients in 47 states, the program helps some 2,000 students stay connected to 40,000 classmates.

MORE ON EDTECH: Learn about best practices for starting a videoconferencing program.

Real-time Benefits of Maintaining Connections

Video conferencing is a logical fit for schools seeking to integrate homebound students into the daily academic experience. Businesses recognize the value of video, and the students themselves already have embraced the power of live, real-time video connectivity.

Grand View Research predicts the global video conferencing market will grow at over 9 percent a year to reach $6.7 billion — an indication that video is an increasingly accepted mode of communication. Moreover, young people have already integrated video into their daily lives.

“The students have figured this out,” Wharton says. “They have FaceTime and Houseparty. They use video in multiplayer games when they want to interact with a group. The students already know how to do this natively. They are way ahead of a lot of the educators in that sense.”

Hopecam is helping educators to discover the value of a live video stream. It’s more engaging than a bundle of worksheets that may be sent home and more effective than a phone call since it connects the student not just to the teacher, but to the wider peer group.

“It allows the students to be active and participate, without having to be in the classroom,” Wharton says. “If they are at home or in the hospital or another healthcare facility, they can still get that educational information and have those social interactions with their friends.”

Hopecam has been a labor of love for Logitech, a ground-up movement sparked by members of the company’s video collaboration team who saw a unique opportunity to leverage their core offerings in support of social good. Logitech and Zoom, the video communications company, teamed up for the effort.

Wharton looks beyond the present outreach to consider how else video could have an impact on the K–12 environment.

“In rural areas, in places like India and China, they don’t always have a teacher available, and video can make it possible to reach those students,” he says. “For some, it can mean having access to trained and qualified teachers as opposed to just getting whoever is available locally.”

Some educators already have come to embrace video’s unique ability to close the distances between individuals. There is also a surge in remote learning as schools in the U.S. and around the world are closing amid efforts to stem outbreaks of COVID-19.

“In the K–12 space we have case studies in school districts where people are very spread out, places like Texas where teachers might have to give up a whole day to travel just to meet with their peers,” Wharton says. “If they can connect by video, that allows them to be much more productive.”

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