If you were a parent trying to work while keeping your kids on track educationally in 2020, please take a bow. You’re amazing. You’re an inspiration. And you’re probably tired.

Few companies understand the efforts you made last year better than Five Star Technology Solutions. And they’re here to help you, other Hoosier parents and teachers make it through another year where COVID and its variants may mean additional hours of schooling at home. And as an added benefit, they’ll help keep you safe from cyber criminals.

Five Star Technology Solutions isn’t a household name. Yet. But it very well could be as it enters into a new contract as the state’s digital learning support hub and seeks to vastly expand who it helps.

How (and why) Indiana is helping e-learners and parents

In 2020, the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund, a collaboration of Indianapolis civic, philanthropic and corporate partners was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group worked to address gaps in internet connectivity, device access. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration created and oversaw the Indiana eLearning Lab to help Indiana teachers and parents access high-quality digital learning support.

The eLearning Fund invested $1.6 million to help cover Year 1 start-up costs and was joined by the Indianapolis College Football Playoff National Championship Host Committee, which invested an additional $800,000 in Year 1 start-up funding. In May 2020, the group surveyed Indiana public and private school teachers and learned that:

  • 90% of respondents were interested in accessing virtual professional development;
  • 93 % were interested in connecting with other educators to discuss approaches or resources for eLearning; and
  • more than 80% reported challenges keeping students engaged in eLearning, highlighting why it’s critical to prioritize resources, connectivity and training.

When it comes to parents and elearning, CNBC reported on a Catalyst survey of parents working at home while their children learned at home. More than half of the parents who responded said they felt guilty because they couldn’t fully care for their children and 43% said they felt guilty when they’re caring for their families because they’re not focusing on their work responsibilities.

Last month, the state Department of Education (IDOE) took over the eLearning project and entered into a three-year contract with Five Star Technology Solutions to run what is now called the Indiana Learning Lab.

“The concept is the same, but we’re collaborating with IDOE staff to provide a chat feature and community to support the day to day work of educators,” said Five Star Technology’s CEO Jim Benson. “And we’re hoping to dramatically increase the number of parents who use the lab.”

Establishing a pattern for all schools to help with e-learning

If all goes according to plan, the platform that serves Hoosiers could serve any school corporation in the world and any family that seeks to learn.

Keys to the company’s success are that the company is led by former teachers and administrators, and they’re parents who experienced COVID restrictions along with the rest of the world.

“We know what it’s like to be in the classroom, to be juggling all the aspects of a corporation from the superintendent’s seat,” Jim said. “Thanks to COVID, we also have an appreciation for what it’s like to struggle at home with e-learning and e-working.

Jim Benson, CEO
Five Star Technology Solutions
“Schools report to us that the number one problem with students using technology at home is the parents’ ability to support their children.”

“The Learning Lab provides parents access to tool specific resources, workshops, as well as “just-in-time” support from a Five Star coach through our chat feature,” Jim said.

The company rejects the notion of applying a one-size-fits-all solution to its services, but says there is one service that every school corporation needs to invest in right now.

Schools need to prepare, not just pray to keep e-learning cyber attacks at bay

“Schools have two mindsets when it comes to cyber security,” says Dr. Jason Roseberry, Five Star’s president. “They either don’t realize how vulnerable they are, or they’re praying with everything they’ve got that they’ll be retired before they’re victimized.

Jason Roseberry, President
Five Star Technology Solutions
“We’re working really hard to raise awareness and apply preventative measures to keep schools from catastrophe.”

Like every other organization in the world, schools are vulnerable to cyber attacks like ones in Missouri, Maryland, Ohio and New York in recent months. The FBI and cybersecurity agencies last year reported that in August and September 2020, 57 percent of all reported ransomware cases involved K-12 schools, up from 28 percent in the first six months of the year.

Five Star offers cybersecurity including testing schools to determine how savvy teachers and administrators are in helping avoid infiltration.

“Before we start working with them, virtually everyone in the system clicks on phishing scams and emails that could allow criminals into their systems,” Jason said. “Once we’ve trained them, we have far fewer incidents, but it’s an ongoing battle to alert people to the criminal tricks.”

Five Star Technology Solutions launched 15 years ago and has grown its services as it has grown its client base, which now includes nearly 800 schools.

Five Star helps schools achieve measurable results with a proven portfolio of services and software solutions specifically created for K-12 education that includes student data analysis software, data warehousing, teacher evaluation software, curriculum mapping, online formative assessments, response to intervention, early warning indicator system, professional development and coaching, online learning, technology integration services, 1:1 computing and strategic planning, measurement of technology impact, technology needs assessments,  technology managed services and network engineering services, and voice over IP telephony.