Is Online Education Living Up to Its Promises?

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How can technology help to serve students and lecturers better?

According to this article from EdSurge, online education has the potential to succeed or suffer depending upon the way that it is delivered. It is suggested that institutions and lecturers can do more with the digital tools available. That’s all fine and good, but we know as educators that tools alone don’t make a lecturer great, rather, lecturers make the tools more effective because of their skill and expertise in teaching. As we shift towards introducing more online education opportunities, we should be mindful of the change that is occurring in our students’ and academics’ education. And simply because there is a demand for technology in the classroom, doesn’t mean that traditional teaching values don’t matter, like: having meaningful interactions between teacher and student, creating engaging and relevant course content, and open and consistent communication lines.

“Many of the online courses currently offered at community college [are] simply PowerPoints, it’s still the traditional format, instead of making the best use of the technology.” [source]

What are we doing to support instructors?

In the same article cited above, the question about instructors embracing education technology comes up. Are we putting too much work on their plate when we suggest making social media-style videos, for example? If we want to empower lecturers with cutting edge technology, it makes sense that we also address the shift in mindset that comes with it. It takes a leadership team with change management in mind to prove the need for new technology, and then to build buy in, open communication, and solicit feedback. Academics are instrumental when it comes to instructional design, and building a technology ecosystem that encourages the greatest efficiency and efficacy.

Maintaining a high-touch experience in online education

While online learning tools allow for a great deal of efficiency, we should still be mindful of the ideal Socratic teaching method. In other words, just because you’re using technology doesn’t mean you can simply increase class size. But education technology such as a virtual learning environment (VLE) can help to alleviate much work for lecturers in order to help maintain a personal, engaging approach. For example, sending out automated emails that are triggered by a predetermined set of behaviours. Even something as small as a welcome email from a lecturer at the beginning of the course provides a simple interaction that humanises the online space and builds a foundation of more one-to-one interactions to come.

Use technology more effectively

Making personal relationships requires organisation and preparation. A VLE provides a highly effective platform for communication, engagement, and analytics so that lecturers can focus their attention on providing that much-needed personal contact. There are many tools and best practices that higher education institutions can leverage to ensure they’re making the most positive impact on their students’ learning, and maximising the time that academic staff spend on their work. Check out the guide, “Best Practices for Teaching an Online Course” for a deeper look at organising online education programs.

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