Tag: virtual 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 Many institutions were severely hampered with outdated operational models in which nearly everything was managed on-premises and could not easily transition online.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.

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Key Things To Know About Online Delivery of Hands-On Software Training

By Joe Schulz, vice president of emerging technology, Orasi.

Joe Schulz

Like most of us in today’s new reality of a distributed workforce, enterprise-level training classes are forced to move to virtual, online formats.

If you’re transitioning corporate education training classes from onsite/in-person to online, provide hands-on virtual software application training, or need dedicated software environments for enterprise students to complete practice labs, you already understand the challenges of preparing courses to be delivered virtually.

Studies show that retention increases by as much as 75% when training includes hands-on practice. That’s much more difficult to manage in a virtual world where students attend through web conferencing applications like Zoom, Webex, Skype, and Teams.

However, all is not lost, and in some cases may even be better. Virtualizing training dramatically reduces the effort and cost required to deploy and maintain these environments.

With a virtual training focus, no hardware is purchased and maintained, no travel time or expense is needed, and no facilities need to be rented or built out. Class scheduling can be based solely on participant availability without regard for other classes, and instructors and students use their own familiar, personal workspaces.

To help you make the leap into today’s world of virtual training, consider the following best practices across each stage of the training process to ensure your classes are both relevant and effective.

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Tips For Delivering The Best Virtual Learning Experience During COVID-19

Vishal Raina

Vishal Raina, CEO and founder of California-based YoungWonks, shares his thoughts on tips for delivering the best virtual learning experience during COVID-19:

1. Arrange for a good internet connection: Given that the class is now taking place online, it is imperative to make sure that your internet connection is not patchy. It would be a good idea to perhaps even have a backup of sorts (through an Internet hotspot dongle) in case your home WiFi isn’t doing a good enough job.

2. Ensure total online privacy and safety: Every online teacher needs to recognise the utmost need to ensure this, especially given recent instances of Zoombombing (Zoombombing refers to unwanted intrusions into video conference calls which in turn cause disruption).

a) For starters, the instructor should not allow students / attendees to use fake names while logging in, particularly in online classrooms where students prefer not to switch on their video. This, along with keeping tabs on the final list of attendees expected to join the class, will help weed out any walk-ins/ unregistered participants.
b) Many video conferencing platforms have an online waiting room; so it may be a good idea to have students wait in such an online room, before their attendance is vetted and they are allowed to join the actual online class.
c) Several online meeting platforms allow meetings or classes to be conducted without the need for a password. This should be avoided and instead, instructors should create passwords for signing into the admin account which allows them to start the online class. They should take care to use a strong, unique password, preferably one not used anywhere else;  especially since these meetings are attended by kids and student privacy is a sensitive matter that deserves serious attention.

3. Pick a plain background for the online class: Like in a physical classroom, it would do well to have minimal distractions so that students can focus on the subject at hand. In a virtual classroom, the instructor can do so by picking a plain / white background to sit or stand against and teach. In fact, several meeting platforms offer in-built virtual backgrounds.

4. Enable drawing on screen on a case-by-case basis: A good way of enforcing discipline in an online class is to not enable the drawing feature for all students in your class. Before the class begins, it would be good to disable this and allow students to draw on screen after they seek permission from you to do so. This will ensure that kids get to draw only when needed. Allowing all students to draw, instead of letting them do so on a case-by-case basis – can lead to unwarranted nuisance and waste of crucial class time.

5. Hosting rights: The host of an online meeting (read: classroom in this case) typically has many overruling rights and hence it is important to make sure that these rights are not misused or passed on easily. To begin with, it is recommended to disable the “join before host” feature, which means no one will be able to join the online class in the absence of the teacher. This will ensure better student supervision. Similarly, it is also advised to avoid sharing host rights with students. Often the settings in video conference apps are such that the meeting host changes automatically in the event of the original host having a weak Internet connection. It would be wise to change such a default setting so that the hosting rights do not pass on to a student in the online class.

6. Clamping down on unnecessary chatting between students: Much like in a physical classroom, it is important to contain the distractions and one way of doing this is making sure that the chat settings are in order. This means that the chats in the online classroom should be sent to everyone and individual/ private chats between students is disabled. Muting all students by default is also a standard move in an online classroom. Of course, the teacher would have to keep telling students to unmute themselves before talking and mute themselves after talking.

7. Encourage use of the raise hand feature: In digital classrooms, teachers must explain and encourage the use of raise hand features provided by the online meeting platforms. Often too many students have a query or a point to be made at the same time and the raise hand feature comes in handy in such situations. It basically keeps track of the order in which hands were raised and allows students to speak up accordingly.

8. Use breakout rooms whenever needed: In digital classrooms where you wish to break up your students into smaller groups, using a virtual breakout room is a good idea. This will allow students to split into smaller sets where they can work on their project / assignment even as the teacher gets to move between groups and keep track of each group’s progress. However, such virtual breakout rooms are ideal for older, self-driven kids that do not need constant monitoring.

9. Take time out to explain how an online class works: This may sound trivial, except it is far from it. Even in today’s day and age, many students may find it tough to log into an online class; this is particularly true for younger students. To avoid the ensuing confusion and waste of time, it is better for teachers to follow a standard protocol where they start out by devoting a few minutes to explaining how a digital classroom works, what are the different features being offered by the video conference platform, how the mute and unmute buttons work, and so on. At least in the initial sessions, it would be a good idea to do so.

10. Streamlining the publication of online handouts, assignments: With students no longer turning in their assignments on paper, schools need to figure out a convenient way in which students can submit their online handouts and assignments. Platforms such as Google Classroom, EdOptim are ideal as these are feature-packed school management softwares that facilitate the above in a smooth manner.

11. Sending out meeting links on time: Teachers should take care to email meeting links well before the class is scheduled to begin. Often parents and students just end up waiting for the meeting link and join the class a lot later so it certainly helps if one is organised about sending these links. Often, parents may request that teachers do not change the meeting link as it is convenient for everyone to just go to the same one each time. But it is important for teachers to evaluate the pros and cons of doing so. While retaining the same link is no doubt convenient and can be time-saving (it does away with the need to send out a new one for each session), doing so also increases the chances of non-participants joining the session. In case of meetings with unique links, it is important for teachers to send them across well in advance and not at the last minute.

12. Opt for meeting platforms where distance learning is integrated into the student portal itself: A meeting that can be logged into by accessing the link from a student portal is typically more secure than one where one awaits the link to be shared via a different channel. Also, accessing the link from a password-protected portal also means there is no need for a link to be generated by the teacher hosting each session. This in turn helps avoid outsiders and a scenario where parents and students end up waiting for the said meeting link.

Lessons Learned By Providing Virtual Learning

By David Brasch, director of IT, Compass Charter Schools.

David Brasch

I am learning many lessons along the way for delivering the best virtual learning experience during this pandemic. The most critical being communication; when information is flowing in many different directions and decisions are made very quickly, communication must be clear across all stakeholders. This way, staff can set expectations and create stronger teams within Compass Charter Schools, resulting in improved morale during achallenging time.

Many families have technology at home that allows their scholars to learn virtually, but there are a number that do not. It is apparent across the information technology industry that many families do not have all that they need, fortunately, we were able to provide to our scholars and families, but many schools are not. There still are shortages of many different devices for virtual learning.

Another lesson that we learned is the importance of being able to provide essential networking and trouble shooting for parents and scholars at home. Many schools and learning centers have high-end networks and devices that are programmed to work efficiently. In a residential environment, these networks vary and may require special support to operate in a virtual learning environment.

These unprecedented times force companies to evaluate the way they serve their customers and redesign what that experience looks like to meet the demands that flood the market. Internet service providers are on the front lines and face an influx of requests for services.

This evaluation and redesign create many challenges because of the need for more technicians than are available to enter the home for installation and basic setup. This was a learning experience for everyone as we were able to see how dependent we are on technology.

I also want to share some best practice tips for an excellent virtual learning experience. Create and follow a schedule that will help achieve more productivity throughout the day and create a separation between personal time and learning time.

Have a designated clutter-free workspace that will keep distractions to a minimum and help stay focused on learning. Most importantly, this is an unparalleled situation that we are all dealing with, be adaptable, and flexible along the way.

Virtual Learning During COVID-19: Tips From Educators

MigicovskyResponses by Elizabeth Migicovsky, PhD, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at San Jose State University in San Jose, California.

One of my biggest challenges in transitioning to online learning is maintaining consistency for students. They signed up for an in-person class at the beginning of the semester not an online class, so I tried to keep it as close to the in-person format as possible. Many of my colleagues have been using voice-over with Powerpoint slides or writing on a tablet, but I find that a bit too impersonal.

I have also been using an educational tool from Osmo called a “Reflector”–it is basically a mirror for my webcam. Right when classes started going online, Osmo came out with a free Projector App for iPad that allows their Reflector to be used as a projector [of my desktop]. This way, I can take the Osmo Reflector off of my camera and speak to my students face-to-face, then I can put it back on and write notes, answer questions, or pose problems for them to do. [i.e. They won’t see the professor’s writing notes as “backward writing” on the wall, like when you do using Face Time.]

Furthermore, I use 3-D models in my chemistry course, and I wouldn’t be able to utilize these if I were only in a Powerpoint or tablet format. The Osmo Projector App makes online interactions feel more like a normal class, and many of my students have commented that it made the online transition much smoother than other courses.

In terms of adjustments I had to make in the transition to online teaching, I have had to omit certain assignments from my course because of the online format. Since I teach biochemistry lab, there are some experiments that the students simply cannot do from home.

Instead, I give them “fake data” and challenge them to write lab reports as if they had done the experiment themselves. Regardless of any changes, I still have high expectations for my students. The courses that I teach are preparing them for more challenging courses, and they will be expected to know this material in future semesters.

Back to School or the Dining Room Table? How Schools Can Prepare for Back to School

By Ellen Paxton, Chief Learning Officer, Professional Learning Board 

Ellen Paxton

Like everything else post-COVID-19, schools are going to look different this fall. As teachers, we are grappling with that fact and trying to determine exactly how we will help our students come September. Will in-person classroom instruction resume? If so, will wide spaces between desks suffice, or will districts rely on staggered schedules to keep COVID at bay? Will cafeterias and playgrounds remain closed, and what could take their place?

While the future remains uncertain, we can count on one thing: distance learning will remain a part of the plan. Fortunately, this time around, educators have time and experience on their side. Following a tough transition period for most schools, Summer break provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate, invest in, and enhance school-wide PD and distance learning programs.

Educators can use this time to heighten their professional development by taking an online course that helps them transfer their skills from the classroom to a virtual classroom setting. As leaders in teacher training, Professional Learning Board responded to the stay-at-home orders by providing a free, five-hour course, giving teachers the tools they need to succeed in a virtual classroom.

In districts across the country, several common problems have slowed, even prevented, consistent learning this past semester. The priority needs to focus on these important areas:

Removing barriers to equity in remote learning. Every student and instructor needs access to a device and reliable connectivity at home. Some cities have developed partnerships with foundations and technology companies to provide free high-speed internet access to families, and a congressional measure to make it more widely and consistently available is on the table.

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Virtual Learning Is Changing Education: Here’s What We’ve Learned

Andrew Gaent

By Andrew Gaent, CEO, Wyzant.

Even prior to COVID-19, online tutoring had become the norm. However, many students and parents were still hesitant. Now 100% of lessons are happening online, with all the real-time interaction that you’d experience in-person.

COVID-19 has changed the way that school is taught in America, at least for the foreseeable future. Online classrooms, parent-assisted homeschooling, and academic “dips” are just a few of the challenges that teachers and students face today. Now, more than ever, educators and parents have discovered a need to be armed with strategies to engage students to not only keep their attention but help them navigate this seismic change in learning delivery methods.

What lessons have we learned from the transition to virtual learning?

As schools begin to consider plans for reopening across America, parents, teachers, students and administrators are looking to evaluate what worked when schools closed this past spring, and what didn’t. What they find will help to inform decisions around how to incorporate social distancing and online learning into traditional K-12 education in the future. Here are a few of the lessons that the transition out of the classroom and into virtual learning has taught us about how kids learn, both in the school building and online.

  1. There isn’t one style of teaching that works for every student

Rather than choosing only one method of teaching, it’s important to consider each learning style to create an environment that boosts the value for all types of students. In a virtual learning situation, teachers find that using tools such as digital breakout rooms for group discussions, having a real-life whiteboard to write on versus a slide show, adding videos, using interactive polls, and group activities can help connect and engage students who are used to face-to-face interactions.

  1. Virtual classrooms can help teachers connect with every student

One unique opportunity in the virtual classroom is making interaction easier for shy and introverted students who may not normally participate heavily in person. Educators can use a roll-call system to call on each student to respond to a prompt and make sure each person is involved. Virtual classrooms and technology allow teachers to connect with students in innovative, new ways that can increase engagement, an important step in helping kids retain the information that is being presented.

  1. Students need encouragement and empathy to keep them engaged

In normal times, teachers create lesson plans that are delivered to kids face-to-face. Now, these same lessons are being delivered virtually and often there is a gap between the teacher-created information and the child’s ability to comprehend the material. In traditional classrooms, this would be handled by the teacher. In the virtual learning space, online tutors have stepped in to help fill this void with supplemental materials and a personalized approach to learning that can help a student continue academic progress, even away from the traditional school building.

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Virtual Learning In The New Educational Age

Responses from Wayne Bovier, founder and CEO, Higher Digital.

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

(Higher Digital) Most institutions have treated and viewed online courses and programs as a nice-to-have. The long-term impact for every school should make it clear that distance/online learning is a must have especially for the enduring viability and health of the institution. Education and training needs are increasing within every industry, but accessibility and affordability for most institutions has been a lower priority outside of their current business model. Institutions need to incorporate their IT strategy into their short and long-term strategy of the institution —and I think that more will be open to such changes after the challenges of responding to COVID-19.

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?

Yes, institutions must make sure that they can keep operations going while supporting and continuing to teach their students regardless of location, and many more will take this seriously now. In a worst-case scenario, COVID-19 will continue to impact in-person classes and schooling while there is still a search for a vaccine, so it’s critical to continue to invest in improving their online operations, support, and outcomes that also improve their accessibility and affordability.

Non-verbal communications are 95% of communications; in addition, learning and engaging with classmates in-person remain valuable.  What will happen is that more students overall will have access to courses and programs. To make this a possibility, institutions should consider broadening their offerings to make distance learning as meaningful and engaging as they possibly can. This in turn will also help institutions to expand their recruiting and enrollment pool.

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

“The gap between in-person and distance learning will continue to shrink as technology innovation becomes more immersive. The demand from students, both traditional and non-traditional, and employers continues to increase, but as an industry, higher education has been slow to embrace and expand digital investment that delivers on a strategic mission. In other words, higher education has been too focused on tactical and operational technology investments – important investments but ones that have proven to fall short in the wake of COVID-19. While most schools currently provide a hybrid teaching experience of online and in-person learning, technology must play a larger role moving forward.”

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 On Education

Responses from Sabari Raja, co-founder and CEO, Nepris.  

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

Many school districts were unprepared for long-term remote instruction, and unexpected school closures have shed some light on the need for a robust virtual learning strategy that takes effectiveness and ease of use into account without sacrificing safety. Most districts have struggled with integrating live instruction and have so far only offered asynchronous modes of learning, which creates a huge gap and leaves many kids behind.

Technology solution providers now have an opportunity to step up and help bridge this gap. It’s clear that virtual learning will be the “new normal” moving forward. Technology becomes a must-have in supporting these new models of teaching and learning.

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 experience should permanently shift the educational roadmap, with the continuation of remote learning in some capacity. Physical classrooms are not going to go away anytime soon, but small group instruction and blended models with some in-person classes, combined with remote instruction, could become the new reality. Maybe high school will start looking more like a college campus where students are not stuck to a classroom all day and all week long. They have more flexibility in what classes they take and when they take them.

The biggest issue with adapting to remote learning is classroom management, safety, and security. There is a fear of virtual classrooms due to this lack of control; however, most of these fears can be addressed with adequate teacher training. This summer is going to be a crucial time for districts to choose the right tools, train their teachers, and be prepared to continue distance learning in some capacity going forward. Adequate Teacher PD is going to be a determining factor in the success of adapting to distance learning.

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

The future could be a hybrid of in-person instruction and technology-driven remote learning. We have an opportunity to use technology not just for teacher-led instruction but also to bring industry connections and real-world learning to students that traditionally had very limited access to people and places outside of their communities. Technology can also provide self-paced learning opportunities for students who don’t do very well in traditional classroom environments.

Virtual learning has been proven to offer the flexibility and adaptability for students who are balancing many things outside of school, whether it is socio-economic factors, the requirements of competitive sports, or different learning styles. These models and tools have been in practice before COVID-19 within a few groups, but now the vast majority have had to embrace these solutions very quickly.

At Nepris, our goal has been to use our expertise in virtual platforms to adapt quickly to provide distance learning tools for virtual classroom, real-world learning, and to support virtual summer events, such as internships and job shadows, while keeping in mind that successful teacher training is vital.

How Has Education and Virtual Learning Changed Because of the Pandemic?

Responses from Nader Qaimari, chief learning officer, ISACA.

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

It’s important to distinguish between true distance or virtual learning and crisis virtual learning. Right now, yes, many organizations and schools have moved to doing everything virtually, yet we are not really where we need to be to say we’re truly virtual.

We are doing what we can, but not necessarily doing it correctly. I imagine that shortly after this crisis subsides, we will see a quick pendulum swing back to much more face-to-face interaction (as we all crave it) but then people will move to having serious discussions around what this means long-term. With my kids, for example, I am extremely interested in how we will measure the efficacy of distance learning. It’s not as easy to measure as parents who are working from home right now can’t monitor their children’s progress all day, like teachers can in a closed environment. More tools to facilitate that will be necessary, and more importantly, the adoption of those tools.

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?

At a minimum, virtual learning will no longer be viewed as some elusive, experimental aspiration, but a true possibility – with limits. We are now a few weeks into a stay-at-home order for 80% of the population and I am pretty confident that if you ask most parents, they want their kids to go back to a physical classroom setting. The physical social interaction is key and the appreciation for teachers is at an all-time high. When you move to other areas of learning, however, like corporate learning, it seems that distance learning is a true possibility. It’s more convenient, more cost-effective and more efficient. As the organizations that deliver that content improve, and the technology improves, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to say that more corporate learning will continue to move to an online-only format.

I really think that it will not happen in our lifetime. There will be options to do that as an alternative, but I don’t think that will be the norm in the next few decades. Education does not move that fast, even after a crisis.

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

The goal is to recognize each for the value it brings. The technology should facilitate instruction and make it more efficient. The teacher/instructor should personalize it and make it stick. I have never subscribed to the belief that teachers would get replaced with technology. That is thinking about it incorrectly. Technology can help teachers become better, though. By removing the manual work and freeing up time, teachers can do what they do best – connect with students, engage them, and make sure they understand. That is why the classroom will be around for a long time. We crave that social interaction.