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The Dawn of the Digital Learner

  • 3 Min Read

Exploring the State of #EducationNow with Cisco

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things, including how we educate our newest generation of learners. To help students adapt and thrive, educators need the tools and knowledge to deliver better learning experiences in online environments. Earlier this year, Cisco launched its #EducationNow series to look more closely at some of the impacts including who the new digital learner is, what educators can do to build and boost engagement, and how to maintain security and privacy online.

Over the next couple of months, we’ll be sharing a selection of Cisco’s articles through our own blog. Want to browse the complete series? You can find it here.

Brightspace and Webex

CirQLive MEETS supports the use of conferencing tools within Brightspace—including Webex Meeting Center, Webex Training Center, Webex Event Center, and Webex Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMR). With single sign-on directly from the LMS, it’s easy for teachers and instructors to schedule and manage sessions, organize recordings and attendance records, and streamline processes by keeping everything in one secure, centralized space. Learn more about the integration here.

Join us in #EducationNow with the first blog in a three-part miniseries on the transition to hybrid learning.

With many educational organizations shifting their entire schedules to distance learning tools or full virtual environments indefinitely, never has the statement “we are all in this together” been more poignant.

Academic and information technology leaders had to lean in to a sharp learning curve, as educators transitioned from occasional online and asynchronous delivery of classes to mass distance education. The influx of support requests from teachers, students, guidance, administration, parents, and executives continues as we look to the fall semester. We truly are in this time of change together, and for our customers, it is key that we continue to lean in. The near future will require partners, vendors, and service providers to collaborate to support global education institutions. Many have realized that these tools open possibilities, and many also have a newfound appreciation for digital tools. Yes, this shift to a hybrid environment is a hill to scale, but the choices we make today are changing education forever.

Replication of a classic classroom dynamic, where teachers teach, students learn, and collaboration tools prepare us for regular assessment, is the first level of hybrid education. The true key to successful learning in this new environment is bolstering students’ ability to learn in a digital environment. With education traditionally focused on audible, kinetic, and visual learning types, teachers must adapt in order to identify what it means to be—and how to form and foster—digital learners, no matter their traditional learning style. The innovation we demonstrate in order to form digital learners in this life-altering period will define our ability to educate tomorrow.

So, is this a perfect time to innovate?

In the coming months of new methods of teaching and learning, we will see innovation and creative acceleration. This is the inflection point at which we will see a proof of value for hybrid learning.

Did students receive quality education during this period? Did advanced collaboration work with a 100% remote education platform? How can we better align campus and virtual classroom experiences?

Already we see requests for more technology integrations, acceptance of artificial intelligence to assist teachers, and a better understanding of real-time analytics.

We are on the cusp of creating digital learners and leveraging digital tools to initiate conversations, drive inquiry, enhance proficiency, create and adapt information, and—overall—accelerate a student’s success and career path. This is augmented education, and it is here to speed the road to success.

Moving to an augmented hybrid education environment will mean changes to more than just pedagogy. It heralds changes at all levels of campus life, education delivery, and skill development. Leveraging transformational tools already adopted in corporate environments— such as artificial intelligence and machine learning—augmented learning will use technology to build upon a student’s own proficiency and understanding. Of course, change brings fear. However, today we have the unparalleled opportunity to explore hybrid learning, to engage with our students and prepare them for success and careers in a rapidly changing world, and to pave the way for new educational models.

Now is the time for the dawn of the digital learner.

We are passionate about ensuring the continuity of learning through our Cisco education solutions portfolio. We can help you keep teachers, students, and administrators securely connected no matter where they are, so learning doesn’t have to stop in these difficult times. Discover our distance education solutions today.

Explore how Cisco is transforming education

Discover more innovative thought leadership in Cisco’s #EducationNow series, and stay tuned for the next blog in this series, coming next month: “Does Dyslexia Hold the Key to the Future of Learning?”

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Fueling up:

Upskilling to grow careers

Name: Zaria
Age: 27

Policy prescriptions: Invest in a Learning-Integrated Life; Transform the learning of today with new partnerships; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Zaria has five years of work experience and is ready to change jobs and enter a field that has high growth potential in her region. The national government has been investing in collecting better skills-based labour market information for years and has developed a public platform to offer individuals specialized tools to assess their skills against current market needs, and to locate employers that are currently hiring.

On the employer side, the human resources team is closely examining a recent internal skills audit done at their organization and determines that the organization needs additional digital marketing specialists. They initiate a search for individuals with the skills they will soon need and spot a strong candidate in Zaria who requires only light training on regulatory issues regarding the sale of electric vehicles, along with some formal skills development courses on social media marketing strategy. After a successful interview, Zaria is offered the job.

Upon joining, Zaria will receive an educational benefits stipend from the company, and access to a company-provided platform of curated programs for skills building from approved providers. Upon completion of a set of courses, Zaria will receive a credential from a company approved program verifying her technical knowledge and marking the end of her probationary period at the company. To ensure she continues to build her skills, she will move into a formal mentor program with one of her colleagues to receive continual peer-to-peer feedback on her demonstration of skills and knowledge. information

This affordable and accessible learning through employer-funded training has enabled Zaria to begin working while also upskilling to ensure her long-term success in the company and growing industry. The employer is investing in its employees, and company leaders are thinking further into the future about the skills the company needs, and the types of job candidates who will succeed. This match, based on skills potential, was made possible because of government investment in high-quality labour market information and a national platform that matches job candidates with career opportunities based on the candidates’ skills and the identified skill needs of a given job.

Taking the road less travelled:

A networked postsecondary education

Name: Sam
Age: 18

Policy prescriptions: Transform the learning of today with new partnerships

Sam is a prospective postsecondary student who has always been interested in pursuing a global and interdisciplinary education. Sam’s siblings have all instilled in her the importance of studying abroad, having spoken fondly of their academic exchange semesters, field research trips, and intensive language immersion programs. She is inspired, but unsure whether this pathway will be available if she chooses not to complete a four-year degree at one institution.

Sam is interested in understanding how emerging technologies can be used to modernize and improve government services—an area in need of talent not only in her home country of Canada but also abroad. She could take on a general political science, public administration, engineering, or computer science degree at the university close to her home, but none of those degrees feels like the right fit to build the skills she needs to pursue this career interest.

While researching options, Sam learns of a new degree completion pathway that allows students to take courses from a network of universities, colleges, and polytechnic institutions throughout Canada and stack them for skills-based  credentials that are recognized by major Canadian employers. A set of four of these credentials grants an individual a degree-equivalent endorsed by each institution. Sam identifies the skills and knowledge she wants to work towards and charts out four credential pathways:

  1. Service delivery design
  2. Change management
  3. Applications of emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence)
  4. Machinery of government

With this customized learning pathway, Sam has full flexibility to decide how she wants to structure her courses, the institutions within the network she will study at, and the format and model of courses she prefers—whether live in-class instruction or online courses.

Cost flexibility is built in as well—students pay a standard fee based on the number of competencies they intend to learn rather than the normal standard of ‘credit hours’. The province in which Sam lives has endorsed this networked model of  postsecondary education and adjusted its financial assistance program to better support students. Grants and other non-repayable assistance take into consideration the number of courses the student is taking across all institutions when assessing financial need. Previously, Sam would have been required to be a full-time student at every institution to receive support.

Sam also has the option of starting with foundational courses or applying for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) information so her existing knowledge and skills can be tested and she can move on to more advanced topics.

Sam completes her first three credentials in three years and uses her certifications to apply for a one-year work-integrated learning experience with the federal government in Germany where she can learn first-hand about the applications of artificial intelligence in government. When she returns home, she applies for PLAR to certify her learning on the machinery of government and is granted a degree acknowledging her four-part customized education.

The collaboration between universities, polytechnics, and colleges to create a networked approach to degree completion, and its endorsement by the provincial government, allowed Sam to graduate as an alumnus of multiple postsecondary education institutions. Her exposure to different thought spaces and networks was highly valuable for ensuring she was engaged throughout her education and set up for post-graduation success. In the rapidly evolving field she has chosen, she understands how important it is to continuously upskill, and is prepared to return to formal education for more stackable credentials as she continues throughout her career.

Route guidance:

Personalized professional development

Name: ZheYuan
Age: 33

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

ZheYuan is about to join Marama’s school as a new secondary school teacher. He completed his professional teacher education a decade ago, and teaching looks a bit different today than it did when he was studying. With the incorporation of learning technologies in the classroom, and expectations of teachers delivering competency-based education information, he needs personalized professional development to feel comfortable and supported in this new opportunity.

The school district has been on its own learning journey since shifting to a competency-based education model, and has had some growing pains. Over time, the district has come to recognize that success depends on school administrators working closely with teachers to co-create systems of instruction, and pathways to professional development. The district has its own online learning management system (LMS) for teacher professional development, with a catalogue of content covering a range of subjects including:

  • Strategies for student-centred instruction
  • Design thinking—how to prototype and iterate on solutions to test new approaches
  • Online content—using learning management systems to advance competency-based education
  • Data analysis—interpreting student progress

ZheYuan is excited that he can take on professional learning to suit his needs on his own schedule. He recalls an earlier time when he had to spend nine hours a month in-person taking the same professional development courses as his peers who were teaching very different subjects and had varied skill levels and pedagogical needs than him, which was less than effective.

ZheYuan can also take advantage of his teacher community in the LMS, connecting both in asynchronous chats and in live discussions with other teachers and experts from across his region to ask questions and share his experiences. He sees some upcoming dialogues hosted by his school district to share learnings and signs up for those sessions, knowing he will get a valuable peer perspective from other teachers. ZheYuan is thankful that his school leaders recognize and value professional learning and provide the supports and the time needed for improvement.

D2L Whitepaper Contributors

Lead Authors:
Malika Asthana, Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs
Joe Pickerill, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, International

Contributors:
Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer
Mark Schneiderman, Senior Director, Future of Teaching and Learning
Brendan Desetti, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, United States
Mike Semansky, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, Canada
Nia Brown, Senior Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs

In the driver’s seat:

Owning the personalized learning journey

Name: Marama
Age: 14

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Marama is enrolled in a school with a competency-based education model information. Students are responsible for owning the personalization of their learning pathways, making choices alongside their teachers in how and when they learn.iii Teachers play a central role in guiding and validating all learning, regardless of where it takes place—offering formative assessments to evaluate a student’s mastery of skills and knowledge. Teachers use data from these assessments, gathered through an online learning management system (LMS), to differentiate instruction and provide targeted supports so that all students progress toward graduation. As a student diagnosed with a learning disability, Marama is supported in her education by this personalized learning pathway.

All students complete an assessment in ninth grade to identify their natural strengths as a learner. Their teachers use the results as inputs to design tailormade educational pathways with learning materials and activities that suit the individual students’ learning needs. In Marama’s case, this includes:

  1. Supplementing lecture-based teaching with structured but independent reading
  2. Shadowing professionals who work on the concepts she is learning about
  3. Taking the stories and lessons she’s learned and sharing it back with classmates by designing a creative and interactive presentation

Over the course of the school year, Marama spends a third of her time in live lectures (sometimes online) with her teacher alongside other classmates—but the rest of her time is spent learning in the ways that suit her best. She can log into her online LMS from her mobile device to access her school resources and complete on her own schedule before the assigned deadline. When Marama finds a concept that interests her, she can ask her teachers and counsellor for support in finding a working professional to speak to, or work alongside for a couple weeks, from the network her school has curated over time. And when she has learned something, she is encouraged to reinforce her learning by applying her skills and developing content to share back with her classmates.

Marama’s personalized learning journey empowers her to own her education by learning in ways that are effective for her, with the support that allows her to be successful. Her teachers have high-quality data about student strengths and performance they can share with her parents to show them how she is mastering specific skills, and where she may need extra support. Her school experience empowers her to embrace her subject interests very early on, and she advances to deeper topics quickly as she submits evidence of learning that demonstrates her proficiency. She graduates having cultivated a mindset for self-directed learning early in her education.