How to Take the “Distance” Out of “Distance Learning”

By Avanindra Utukuri, CEO, Vizetto, and executive chairman, Baanto

Avanindra Utukuri

In a higher education setting, concepts such as experiential learning, group interaction and student experiences are essential for learning critical thinking skills and honing problem-solving techniques. Unfortunately, ad-hoc distance learning programs at colleges and universities across the country are relying on traditional video conferencing and online presentations to replace in-person classes.

And it’s just not cutting it.

After scrambling to finish up the last academic year, higher ed professionals are under a microscope to do better this fall. After all, the cost of higher education hasn’t gone down, and the lackluster experiences parents and students alike have been anecdotally sharing among their peers aren’t painting a positive value proposition.

The New Normal Demands Better Communication and Collaboration

Schools, especially higher education institutions, have been slow to adopt new technology strategies and initiatives. Distance learning demands that colleges and universities step up the pace of embracing technology as the way to bridge the gap between in-class, in-person education and remote connectivity.

The first step is to recognize that putting slides online for self-learning is not a lesson plan. A video conference call is not a substitute for group interaction. These technologies completely disengage the remote student and do not come close to mimicking the classroom experience.

Most online classes today are just linear PowerPoint presentations of class lecture notes. Where this style of teaching may have worked in times past, rote learning and passive consumption is no longer acceptable. Simply screen sharing lesson plans doesn’t allow remote students to engage any more than watching TV.

Realizing that neither students nor educators want a lackluster learning experience, the teams at Vizetto and Baanto have created radically innovative technologies which enable groups of students to debate, argue, contrast different ideas and share thoughts naturally. It literally takes the distance out of distance learning by breaking down barriers that being remote causes and creates an experiential learning platform.

It’s Not Enough to Just Employ Tech; You Need to Make it Work For You 

Most educational institutions are trying to implement a hardware/software solution that integrates Interactive Whiteboards, software and cameras; where students can seamlessly follow the teacher delivering lessons in real time via a camera, visualizing the notes he/she is drawing on the interactive white board and have their digital textbooks open simultaneously to follow along.

The traditional implementation of these technologies leaves a lot to be desired as they are clunky, provide for a poor user experience, don’t capture the natural feel of handwriting and instead of facilitating the lesson, actually slow the pace down. That is the reason why, even in 2020, we are seeing advanced technology being discarded and educators are still relying on simple chalkboards and static PowerPoint presentations.

The ideal solution not only re-imagines the digital learning experience for the post COVID age, it is designed from the ground up to provide the ideal solution. The integration of hardware and software must not only be intuitive and simple but elevate the students’ and educators’ experience to be better than even traditional in-class lessons.

Interactive whiteboards must be as natural as using chalkboards in their responsiveness, fluidity and fidelity of capturing the nuances of writing. Not just be glorified touchscreens. The collaboration software must allow for students and educators to interact, present, markup and manipulate any file format.

With the correct implementation strategy, distance learning can be totally transformed and provide many benefits.

Turn passive students into active and engaged participants.

Software like Vizetto’s Reactiv SUITE allows educators to create a ‘digital wall’ where any type of file format can be presented and manipulated as if it were a piece of paper. In addition, a ‘digital wall’ can be created where information can be pinned to create a complex layout or visualization that can be used for remote collaboration.

This allows for engaging students in a novel and non-linear fashion, while giving remote students the ability to participate and engage with content as if they were in the same room. Simply flip pages, arrange documents for discussion, ink and markup content and capture changes and context, even distribute content back to the remote students from within the same platform. This way, learning happens in real time and replicates more closely the collaborative, in-person classroom setting.

Replicate the pen-on-paper writing experience.

It is critical that IWBs deliver a high-resolution, low-latency writing experience that is as natural as writing on a chalkboard. The fluidity, speed and accuracy of Baanto’s ShadowSense technology allows for a more realistic representation of the user’s writing. Its responsiveness results in higher adoption rates, greater utilization and a fa

Free educators to focus on teaching and not the tech.

The integration of hardware and software, to create a seamless solution removes a number of technical hurdles and complexities that allows educators, and IT departments, to deploy, support and maintain these products with ease. This frees the institution to focus on actual teaching versus managing how complex pieces of technology work together.

Let’s face it, many of the face-to-face aspects of the college experience are going to be challenging, at best, this academic year. However, if educators and institutions embrace innovative technologies, they can focus on building critical skills such as teamwork, experiential learning, leadership and problem solving that will ensure today’s scholars emerge as tomorrow’s success stories.

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