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Remote learning in higher education: What’s next?

Universities across the UK, and the world, have entered new educational territory recently, due to the coronavirus pandemic. We look at what’s next for them, and how ebb3 can help them to deliver excellence.

Many higher education institutions faced a scramble to transition from in-person to remote learning last year when the first national lockdown hit – and for many that process is still not complete. A lot of faculty members have managed to establish new routines that work for them and their students, but many are still struggling with working out how to teach their course through an online platform that they are still not quite sure how to use.

Students themselves are also having to adjust to a new way of learning, without social connections and the energy that comes with an in-person learning experience. After all, there were only very low numbers of students who were learning online exclusively before the COVID-19 crisis hit.

Now that we are 18 months down the line from the first lockdown, and life is slowly reopening up again, what comes next? This article takes a look at five actions higher education institutions should take to help improve student engagement and learning while they are operating remotely. Although it looks like students may return to campus for the autumn term at the moment, it could be that things change again over the summer, and education has to take place remotely for longer.

So, it is important that Universities learn what is working for their students and what isn’t, and position themselves to create an experience that will enhance their teaching capabilities in the long term.

Focus on accessibility.

Moving from an on-campus learning experience to a remote one raises lots of issues to do with accessibility and equality. The main challenge faced by higher education institutions in this respect is to ensure all students have the technology they need to be able to learn remotely. This could be by offering help with internet access and laptop rentals, to help students get equipped at a lower cost.

On top of the technical challenges associated with remote access, there are also emotional, social and human needs that need to be addressed before students are able to learn such as housing, food and money. Those students with learning disabilities also need attention paying to them as well, to ensure their support resources do not get overwhelmed.

Ensure teaching staff are supported

Most higher education professors are working hard to ensure their students are being taught to the same standard remotely, as they would be in person, despite their own lives being disrupted. What works for one University may not work for another, as it will depend on what technology they have available and what disciplines they are teaching, but there are some general ways in which the institution as a whole can help:

  • Offer more teaching support to faculty members through outreach engagement

  • Use online forums so that all staff members can share best practices

  • Set up a structure that enables staff members to get regular feedback on their remote teaching

  • Invest in training sessions for staff over the summer to help them master the online world and test new technology that could meet their specialised needs

Move campus life online

For many students, the value of higher education is not just about the academic coursework but also their life on campus, so as more institutions move towards remote learning there also needs to be thought put into how virtual spaces could be used to enable the community as a whole to interact too.

They could use a central student place to help students to organise study groups and connect with advisors, and also build tutoring networks to help with student engagement. Technology can really help with this.

Identify stakeholders and use them wisely

Whatever size the college or university is, and whether it’s a public or private one, they all have one thing in common – a wealth of human talent. The key to succeeding in this new normal we are all facing is to draw on this talent to help to address the most pressing issues.

For example, many students are already technologically savvy and they could be used to coach other students and even faculty members on how to use online tools to help them with the transition to online learning.

Invest in cybersecurity

The rushed efforts to move learning online at the start of the first national lockdown last year increased the risk of cyberattacks with many universities already having to deal with unwelcome visitors disrupting their online classes. Many of these problems could be prevented through the use of good cybersecurity processes to close up any gaps and ensure data and security privacy while allowing teaching and learning to go on.

The following security actions can be taken to support online learning:

  • Implementing safe remote-learning protocols including virtual private networks (VPNs) and adequate cloud storage to secure the tools used for teaching and learning

  • Educating all students and faculty members about malware attacks and phishing

  • Adapt how the institution teaches, works and secures its learning capabilities by adding support capacity

  • VDI is more easily managed from a central point

Many UK universities have managed to shift to remote teaching and learning, with limited experience and training – and this forced and abrupt move has not been easy. Take the pressure out of delivering remote classes with ebb3’s virtual workplaces which allow teachers and students to access large applications via any device. Ebb3 is perfectly placed to deliver your remote working requirements, so please get in touch today to find out how.

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