Reimagining the Learning Experience in Higher Education | D2L
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Reimagining the Learning Experience in Higher Education

  • 3 Min Read

In a recent webinar, Clay Shirky, Vice Provost of Educational Technologies at NYU, sat down with Ken Chapman, Vice President of Market Research at D2L, to discuss the use of technology in teaching and learning innovation today.

Chapman launches the conversation by highlighting the crucial role that instructional technology plays in higher education: “The opportunity that technology presents us kind of collides with this big change that we see in higher education these days.” Both parties agree that, given the current climate, institutions’ goal should not necessarily be avoiding challenge and change, but rather recovering from it. As such, preparation is key.

Keep reading for highlights of a few of the themes that were discussed in this informative webinar.

The Role of Technology in Learning

When asked “What will make your organization more attractive to students in the coming years?” at the end of the webinar, 24% of attendees responded with “More consistent use of technology.”

Poll by D2L showcasing what would make an institution attractive to students in the future

However, use of technology is an admittedly vast topic. What might be the most effective way that institutions can consistently incorporate technology into their teaching and learning programs to provide quality education? According to Shirky, “Technology is an amplifier.”

In other words, institutions shouldn’t attempt to use technology to take on capabilities that don’t already exist for them. Instead, to maximize the use of educational technologies, institutions should ask themselves: Which of our goals would we like to amplify or accelerate? How can a specific technology amplify that goal (and why do we want that to occur)? Shirky recommends starting with the problem that needs solving, instead of starting with the solution and working backwards.

Inclusivity in Education

Inclusivity has become an increasingly important conversation topic within the context of higher education. In the past, faculty concerns about students centered on questions such as “Are my students paying attention to my lesson?” Today, we see a range of questions with more of an emphasis on students’ experience with education: “Are all my students able to access my lesson? Is my pedagogy inclusive? Are diverse student voices and social identities being represented?”

Considerations like access to computers and internet services are only one piece of a larger puzzle, notes Shirky. We must also think about whether our students have access to money for textbooks and other educational resources, quiet study spaces, uninterrupted time to work, and even basic needs like food, shelter, water, and sleep. Here, Shirky draws a pertinent and necessary comparison to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In addition, universal design for learning (UDL) has become much more popular, and rightfully so. In incorporating effective accessibility practices for online teaching and learning, many educators are now realizing that such practices are also useful for a wider range of students whom they didn’t even realize were previously being underserved. Such practices include closed captioning video lectures, providing transcripts along with recordings, and considering the user experience in design.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

We’ve invested so much in the shift to remote learning and blended learning environments that it would be a shame to feel as though we have to completely lose that work if and when we move back to mostly in-person classes. Through the shift to digital, many elements of teaching and learning have become easier and more collaborative, but other elements have suffered, including the social aspect. This is why it’s necessary to truly invest in the social connection between faculty and students (or peer to peer) as a deliberate practice. These deliberate practices won’t go to waste, but instead will later carry through into the physical classroom, too.

A few tips and tricks provided by Shirky include turning your webcam on before class to informally chat with students, staying after class to say goodbye or answer questions, intentionally working to establish back-and-forth conversations and interactions, and making a practice of involving students in lessons much more and much earlier.

At the end of the day, says Shirky, what looks like a big challenge is often actually a lot of little challenges.

Check out this exciting webinar for yourself to learn more about:

  • The changing dynamics of student needs and what’s required to meet them
  • How flexible delivery, learning models, and process innovation can help students engage and learn when studying remotely
  • What you should look for in technology to help students learn
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