Tag: online learning

Are You Ready for a Fully Hybrid Model? Not Just Classes, But Everything

Investigating Virtual Learning Environments – Digital ...

By Jeff Elliott, director of product management, Jenzabar.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities into a remote learning model for the spring semester. Now, most institutions are considering innovative models for their fall semester, such as a mix of smaller, in-person classes and online courses. Because even an optimistic timeframe for a vaccine is more than a year away, these hybrid models will last long past 2020, forever changing the higher education landscape.

Support for Remote Workers is Vital

Much of the COVID discussion in higher education has centered around online learning, which is fitting since their purpose is to educate students. However, institutions have numerous departments that support the organization’s learning mission.

While online learning is not a new concept, with many institutions using it before the pandemic, remote working for staff was often just an occasional offering, not a full-time work-from-home model. Like other industries, a lot of higher education administrators believed that staff working in the same space was a driver for high productivity, especially for staff who worked directly with students. Yet, the spring 2020 semester has shown that location is not the only factor for staff output; technology, communication, and collaboration play immense roles.

With the pandemic, entire campuses must be able to support online capabilities. In addition to students, staff across admissions, advising, payroll, accounting, and other departments must be able to work from home. For example, Penn State recently stated that it will bring back staff in phases. The last group to return to campus will be employees who can fulfill work responsibilities remotely. Meanwhile, some employees may continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

While many higher education institutions already had remote capabilities possible for staff, others had to quickly adapt when physical locations were shut down in the spring. Many institutions were severely hampered with outdated operational models in which nearly everything was managed on-premises and could not easily transition online.

Engaging Students Outside of the Virtual Classroom

The difference between schools that thrive in the COVID era rather than muddle though is the ability to engage students outside of the virtual classroom. Communicating with students is crucial to their success, especially during these uncertain times.

Students want and need regular, relevant, and insightful communications. Schools should utilize a mix of email, text, and online chat solutions that students can access via their mobile devices.

Chatbots in particular can be highly advantageous as higher education becomes more digitalized. Institutions can help students combat anxiety brought about by COVID-19 by offering 24/7/365 access to services or personnel that can answer specific questions about health procedures, financial aid, event signups, and more.

Meanwhile, granting students the ability to register for classes, pay their bills, connect with advisors, manage academic plans, and more from anywhere at any time can help drive engagement and satisfaction.

While communication is critical, many students also learn and gain experience outside of the classroom. Positive interactions with fellow students and staff and participation in extracurricular programs can support long-term personal development. Institutions that can find ways to improve student engagement in these types of activities will see a much greater level of success.

Continue Reading

Lessons Learned Delivering Virtual Learning Experiences

By Melinda Kong, director of instructional design and learning management system, Nyack College

Melinda Kong

As we emerge from the last few months of the sudden online teaching shift for courses intended for classroom settings, there are a few glaring lessons learned that will help propel educators forward into the future. While much is still unknown for what the next several months will hold, it is certain that online classwork will be a predominant feature in education.

The methods of online teaching will look different within each education context from K12 to higher education, but one thing is certain; online learning is here to stay and we must adapt to the needs of current and incoming students.

We will likely see a mix of three offerings when thinking about the new normal of distanced learning; the continued implementation of hybrid courses, full fall terms taught online-only, and even HyFlex courses, in which students will be able to be in either face-to-face classes or join virtually when needed.

As educators, it’s important to look at what happened as courses were quickly moved online and learn from what was able to be accomplished. Understanding what worked well and what didn’t will help all educators grow and adopt better pedagogy for online instruction.

Foundationally all courses, despite their delivery makeup, involve diligent planning. All teachers, whether in a face-to-face classroom, online course, or a mix of the two, plan extensively for their courses.

Continue Reading

Changing How We Teach In America, Starting Today

By Caleb Hicks, president, Lambda School.

Higher education is struggling to adapt to the current pandemic in unprecedented ways. Campuses across the country are shut down, students have evacuated their dorms, and instructors are scrambling to move their classrooms completely online.

It’s not just about homework and assignments — teachers are trying to engage students while re-imagining the entire classroom experiences in real-time. It begs the questions: What does the classroom of the future really look like? And how can parents, educators, and students best understand and prepare for this new reality?

It starts with the obvious: remove the barrier of physical location with remote learning options. Next is community. Foster student engagement and maintain support systems to ensure digital classrooms are still just as accessible as they are effective.

The classroom of the future will have to meet students where they are, building on basic remote operations with inventive, interactive curriculum and accessible financing options designed so that diverse communities can succeed in this new normal.

The classroom of the future is live, interactive, and entirely online. 

In 2016, nearly a third of all students took an online education course, and in the past two decades, the technology needed to offer full courses online has improved significantly.

Online learning offers flexibility and often complements in-person courses or lectures. For many students, however, remote learning is the only option. It opens up access to students who would otherwise be out of reach. In particular, students who are their family’s primary caretaker, those who live far from brick-and-mortar institutions, or those with disabilities are sometimes excluded or discouraged from enrolling in higher education without online options. Remote instruction, by design, brings more students into the fold.

Online instructors, though, have a challenge to meet: creating a learning experience that extends beyond a recorded lecture. To ensure student success long-term, student engagement and community building within a virtual classroom is critical. Impact can be easily lost behind a screen, but if you focus on live and collaborative instruction versus static recordings, students feel empowered and held accountable to play an active role in their experience.

Specifically, maintain smaller group settings, no matter how large the lectures are. Have students start and end days in breakout peer groups, where they can have deeper 1:1 discussions and opportunity for collaboration. One way we’ve utilized this at Lambda School is by using Zoom’s breakout function to seamlessly split students off into virtual small-groups during larger lectures. We also facilitate regional student meet-ups in person as well as peer-to-peer communication via Slack to maintain a sense of student body unity.

Continue Reading

School Technology In the Age of Uncertainty

Response from Louisa Childs, head of school, Dwight Global.

We’ve used an array of technologies over the years to meet our students’ needs, regularly incorporating feedback from students, parents, and educators along the way. We’re confident that online education can not only help students thrive, especially during challenging times, but can also be even more effective in certain circumstances.

The support and flexibility of parents and families is crucial to an online school’s success. That means, teachers should strive to make sure parents feel included just as much as students, and that their ideas on how to incorporate more real-world learning into their child’s education are encouraged.

The platforms we use at Dwight enable students to experience classes in the same way brick-and-mortar students do. For example, in language classes, we use Miro, a robust virtual white board tool, to create appealing visual materials for students. Our math teachers use another tool, Aww, which is also a whiteboard, to solve equations ‘on the board’ just as a teacher would in a physical classroom.

Just like brick-and-mortar schools, online schools can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. To be successful, teachers must use different technologies for different age groups and skill sets.

Ultimately, even though education is facing a massive shift right now, our students’ core educational needs are the same: students need consistency and access to materials and technologies that engage them and help them empathize with each other. They need to know their voice matters.

Long-Term Effects of Education and Technology Because of COVID-19

Responses from Adam Garry, senior director of education strategy, Dell Technologies.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

A: A likely outcome is that schools will realize that virtual learning should be a component of every student’s learning journey, but fully online will not work for most.  In the rush to move online, many educators are learning that what they had to do in 14 days should really take months. The K–12 school systems that already solved for access and moved toward blended learning had a much easier time shifting. As a result, we will likely see a strong push for access and blended learning going into next school year. School systems and higher education institutions will build for the future with blended environments as a core component of design and this will allow for the educator and student to have a smooth transition into fully online learning whenever they may choose.

Also, moving forward the technology leader will be seen as an essential part of the leadership team, if they haven’t been already.  Administrators are realizing that learning simply can’t happen without the support of IT and, therefore, we should anticipate technology leaders in education will have a voice to support all decisions that impact the vision and the day-to-day work.  These leaders will need to look beyond just the devices and think about the infrastructure needed to support learning anytime, anywhere.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

This is a question that came up on one of our recent CIO chats that we host and the answer is maybe.  I don’t think that it will be embraced as it is being designed right now because most school systems and institutions are rushing to get something created to support their learners and likely would do things differently with more time.

But I think we will see collaborative work happen across the education spectrum to create courses and curriculum that can be implemented in ways that take advantage of face-to-face and online learning. This will allow schools and universities to redefine how they use physical space and tailor more toward the actual learning.

For example, students working in a collaborative group on a project might need a smaller space in the library with a white board, laptops, internet connection, and a screen to share. While other students are in a lecture hall getting new information via a Socratic seminar. Also, we might rethink how we use projects and playlists to support personalized learning that defines mastery with application of learning, so all learners have an opportunity to show learning in unique ways.

There will likely always be an element of classroom learning at a physical school, however, that will likely look very different in coming years as pedagogy and technology continue to evolve in new ways to empower learners.

In-classroom learning remains essential until we can solve the issue of equity. We still have students and teachers that do not have the correct devices or broadband access for virtual learning. We’re seeing schools grappling with how to conduct special education or help ESL students with a balance of synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning.

Additionally, in-classroom learning provides additional social and societal benefits including school lunches, after school programs and a safe space for children in less ideal home situations.

It also remains essential because learners are social, and the physical building creates opportunities for collaboration and learning that wouldn’t be possible if we were all working in remote locations.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

I am not sure that the vision for the future has changed; I just think we have a new sense of urgency.  School systems and institutions are still moving toward a definition of personalized learning that gives students some voice and choice in the learning process.  This requires access to technology and the internet at home. If we can solve the inequities that exist today for our learners, then we will be able to shift to environments that provide true blended learning and remove time and space as the barriers.  Learners will be involved in competency-based models that allow them to learn at their own pace. The university will become a hub for life-long learning and students will move in and out based on short and long term goals that they set with an advisor. In the end, we will utilize technology as the platform to enable great innovation and shift the model of learning to meet the needs of all learners.

COVID-19 and Education: Long-Term Effects

Responses from Brian Galvin, chief academic officer, Varsity Tutors.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

While we in ed tech have been thrilled to see students engaging with interactive, personalized content, the other side of the story – and likely the bigger story – is that everyone is realizing just how integral physical schools and teachers are to daily life. We’ve seen the importance of the meals they provide to at-risk students, the way that kids crave the socialization and recreation aspects of the school day, the sheer awe that parents have for teachers having had to walk a few miles in their shoes each day. I don’t think we’ll get to the end of this and be ready to replace physical schools anytime soon; if anything it seems like we’ll have a newfound appreciation for schools and teachers.

What I think will change are a few things: For one, distance learning for supplemental education will boom. Parents are seeing even the youngest kids fully engage in online reading and math programs, fully comfortable with the technology and as a Virtual School Day kindergarten reading teacher put it ‘when they get to talk in front of classmates on a webcam they feel like little celebrities on TV.’ We’ll see online summer and after school programs surge for educational enrichment, not just for remediation. A full day of summer school, for example, is a drag; an hour of reading a few mornings per week, however – with parents not having to drive across town to make it happen – is a recipe for turning summer slide into a summer acceleration.

We’ll also see more and more assignments move online to become personalized and adaptive. When kids receive assignments that adapt to their ability level to keep them challenged but not bored or overwhelmed, homework is more efficient and much less tedious.  When programs can remember which skills a student should see again in certain increments — and serve those skills up in small but significant doses – short-term memory becomes long-term mastery. Every ed tech company that has its act together is investing in personalized learning, in creating more content to allow for more adaptivity — when we get through this period we’ll find that much like World War II left us with a surplus of manufacturing capacity, COVID-19 will have left us with lots of personalized learning capacity for schools to tap into.

And we’ll see affordable, small-group personalized learning boom, too. At Varsity Tutors we’re watching classroom teachers flock to online teaching to fill their days and bolster their bank accounts — and they love it. And we’re seeing parents grateful for free online classes and adaptive lesson plans, but craving some personalized attention on particular learning objectives.

One response we’ve had to that is to create a small-group tutoring program, where parents can split the cost of one-on-one tutoring with other families to create really affordable small group sessions. And we’re working to help parents identify other families with learners looking for the same instruction at the same level so that we can not only pass along the savings, but organize meaningful, personalized instruction. That’s tough to do without a large pool of families each seeking out particular assistance so that there are matches — and great instructors — for each. But COVID-19 has created that critical mass, and what we’re seeing is that as people see the benefit, they’re eager to continue it through summer vacation, into the next school year, and beyond.

Schools — not to mention teachers — has so many benefits to our way of life that they’re not in danger of being wholesale replaced anytime soon. This era will certainly steer schools toward more and better technology usage in classrooms and for assignments, but when that first bell rings after quarantines are lifted, most students and parents will be thrilled to get back to normalcy.

What we’ll likely see, however, is a lot of schools develop distance learning plans for things like snow days or elective classes — if a school can’t afford to offer as many Advanced Placement classes as students might like, for example, distance learning has proven to be a viable way of aggregating a handful of students from each of a dozen or more schools and offering that class where it might not have been a possibility before.  Summer school might become more of an option that way, too — much like a college student might knock out a class like organic chemistry at a local community college over the summer to avoid a stressful semester, high schoolers may add to their transcript with one class each summer. We’ll see online education supplement the classic school routine, and add a lot of benefits to students who can take advantage of more options and modalities. But that bell is going to ring to start the 2020-21 school year and people are going to rejoice.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

There’s no doubt that 1) the world is having educational technology forced on it right now and 2) the vast majority of people are going to really like it, or at least really like certain portions of it. So this era will leave a legacy, to be sure. But while we’ve been talking about the flipped classroom and the completely online high school for years now, the research shows that the standard school experience is still more effective in most cases and we’re also seeing the societal benefits of in-person schools, too. So for the near and medium term, we’ll see technology enhance and supplement the traditional school experience – but not replace it.  Technology offers immense opportunities for personalization – whether adaptive assignments, small groups focused on similar ability bands, or diverse offerings to fit interests and abilities – and we’ll see school districts avail some of that potential and lots of parents tap into the supplemental education aspect of it, as well.

The Future of Online Learning

Responses from Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder, Study.com.

Adrian Ridner | CEO and Co-founder of Study.comWill more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? 

Absolutely. It’s paving the way out of necessity. This situation forced schools and districts to consider how technology can work hand in hand with teachers. I don’t think online learning will replace the in-person, teacher-student relationship, but we are seeing how it can extend learning beyond the classroom. Stress-testing system capabilities for the future including the infrastructure and specifics like Single Sign On are now fully utilized and tested – creating habits of how to evolve learning moving forward.

If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogther?

We won’t see physical classrooms disappear, but a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning will take place. I’ve heard from districts that say online learning is really helping the students blend the two as students can do things now like rewind their teacher to hear a specific thought again. Also, I think you will see platforms expand their accessibility by offering multiple modalities. For example, Study.com is a mobile-first platform, but also provides more traditional learning tools such as downloadable worksheets and transcripts. Video-based online learning will continue to expand, whether that is a web conferencing tool such as Zoom that allows teachers to virtually interact with students or curriculum that is packaged into engaging video lessons.

I don’t believe online learning will completely take over in-class learning, but it will continue to become a vital part of how students learn. I think this current situation challenged schools and districts to not only provide short-term solutions for virtual learning environments, but to consider how to implement a hybrid classroom approach utilizing technology and human interaction. The mass adoption that has been enabled by this situation will break down barriers and make schools less apprehensive to adopt technologies moving forward – something that prior to this had been a slow moving process.

These new ways of learning are creating access, personalization of learning and new technology to help teachers and parents, creating opportunity to re-imagine the classroom learning and give teachers more tools in the tool kit. Technology can really bring lessons to life through video-based learning. This pandemic has shown that it’s time to re-imagine what you can do with a physical classroom.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

The future will be a lot of mix and matching of the best of both worlds. There are ways of learning and discussions that are better designed for in the classroom, but now everybody has more learning technology to fuel lessons taught in the classroom. For example, history lessons in a video format are much easier to visualize and become stickier for the learner than a textbook or lecture.

There are also a lot of considerations including equity, quality, flexibility and adaptability. Fourteen percent of households with school-aged children do not have access to the internet, and creating technology, such as a mobile-first platform that can be accessible to these families will be paramount. This situation has forced the education industry to work on closing the equity gap – providing 1:1 student to device access.

Virtual Learning Environments During COVID-19

Anant Agarwal
Anant Agarwal

Responses from Anant Agarwal, CEO and founder of edX.

Following the shift to virtual learning environments during COVID-19, what does the future hold for classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

During this pandemic, much of the world has transitioned to remote learning, demonstrating the rapid evolution of the education landscape. While a new concept to some, here at edX, a nonprofit online learning platform, we’ve seen a shift towards education technology platforms even before the pandemic started, and we predict virtual learning will continue to gain momentum, as learners and educators everywhere realize its wide array of benefits, whether in unusual circumstances like these, or in normal times.

With the aid of technology and the creation of these learning platforms, we aim to shift the mindset to a lifelong, modular approach rather than the typical, stove piped two- six-year trajectory for a degree. When we founded edX, we did so with the mission to make high-quality education more accessible to more people by eliminating barriers like cost, location, and time.

An invaluable benefit of this platform has been to facilitate engagement with our learners on their own time – providing real-time interactions, lessons, and collaboration between these students and their instructors and peers.

Online learning platforms like edX enable quality learning through video distribution, assessments with instant feedback, and social networks that promote stimulating discussions – all occurring at scale and easily accessible by the masses who choose to use them. If there’s one major benefit, simply put, it’s the efficiency that virtual learning platforms have created.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic, and if so, what will that look like? 

We think that the adoption of distance or online learning will happen faster as a result of the pandemic, as both learners and educators begin to see the many benefits associated with this method. While a few universities will still go back to purely traditional approaches, we predict many will start to adopt and deploy the use of omnichannel learning or blended learning, where campus students will routinely use both online and in-person learning.

Universities will also begin to adopt stackable, modular credentials as building blocks to a full degree. These credentials will allow learners to quickly build transferrable, in-demand skills needed to keep up with the digital transformation that has caused a major skills gap in today’s workforce.

Universities will also begin to leverage one of the most important contributions of technology for education – the network effect. Universities will begin to share modular content with each other and build upon each other’s work. edX’s recently launched, edX Online Campus, which will help universities in this endeavor.

Continue Reading

Long-Term Effects of Education and Technology In The Time of COVID-19

Repsonse by Kemp Edmonds, marketimg and technology leader, Digital Media Academy.

Kemp EdmondsBecause most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

We work with a lot of educators and educational leaders in our business the emergence of blended learning is something we see as a long term outcome of this. Blended learning refers to learning in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching. As most students will likely be using online learning more often for the coming weeks they will develop more of an ability to consume information and learn online.

Blended learning provides educators incredible opportunities to use at home/online/electronic learning to provide more impactful hands-on learning in the classroom. We are optimistic that schools, educators, and learners who make the most of this shift we see long term dividends down the road. Students need to embrace self-directed learning via online methods now more than ever and this “forced” virtual learning scenario is likely to improve and expedite that process.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?

We believe that many schools will embrace distance learning/virtual learning environments more once the pandemic is over. We don’t think it will be a large change or a wholesale change, but depending on the students, educators, and the institutions we expect to see a shift for many students to more blended learning environments. We are an education provider, but are not like a traditional school as we provide intensive hands-on learning in person at North America’s best universities via seasonal technology camps. For us, this time is speeding up our strategic plan and need to adapt to provide learning online, anywhere, at any time.

In traditional schools, we expect to see, where enabled by digital equity: devices and connectivity for all students, some activities shifting to online delivery. The biggest challenge we see for traditional educational institutions is that learners who are not engaged in their learning strongly require in-person educational opportunities to learn.

It will be much easier for private and non-traditional educational institutions to move beyond physical classrooms altogether while traditional educational institutions may see little to no net change. A major part of what schools provide isn’t just in the education it’s in the care of our children while we work.. We can’t discount the value of that part of the service.

Could in-classroom learning go the way of the dinosaur or is that panic-stricken hype?

No. As shared above “learners who are not engaged in their learning strongly require in-person educational opportunities to learn.”

There is huge value in online education and humanity has yet to truly tap into that opportunity. This time provides an opportunity to force everything to try, deliver, and experience online education for the first time. Change takes time.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

We are optimistic that educators and students alike are becoming more adept and adapted to virtual learning environments. The future of classroom-based learning is a blended learning environment where lectures become something you watch for homework and hands-on projects and group activities happen in person.