This past year, kids and their parents had a chance to experience online learning as schools worldwide had to close their gates and open up their cameras. University students, employees, and other learners in various programs and institutions have also shifted to online instruction. Sadly, their overall experience was anything but smooth.
Several surveys have found that only 60% of students actively participate in remote education. What’s worse, between 60-75% of teachers report that students’ engagement is dropping over time. Some look at that as proof that there’s no substitute for brick-and-mortar classrooms and schools, perhaps forgetting these are not without faults too.
But the truth is that virtual teaching has many advantages. It’s also safe to say that it’s here to stay. As we’re all aware, it comes in handy for challenging educational situations – and we don’t only mean travel bans and health scares. More importantly, it offers plenty of ways to relay information, initiate conversations, and animate details and particulars.
Hence, we should not use our first-ever experience with remote instruction on such a scale to run it down. Instead, we should use it to learn a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t – and improve accordingly.
1. Make It Simple to Use
Different pedagogy teams have asserted that learning platforms must be user-friendly, approachable, and designed with accessibility in mind, much like any digital product today. Otherwise, learners might give up using them rather quickly. When that happens, these platforms can cause more harm than good and end up widening the gaps between individuals.
In the case of video conferencing, for example, easy installation or even eliminating it can improve usability. Installation and switching between apps might seem like small tasks now, but they act as barriers between users and software. In contrast, web apps and ones integrated into systems already in use (e.g., an LMS) make user’s lives a lot easier.
For live recordings and pre-recorded videos, an effective and comprehensive search tool can set apart content that is available from one that is unusable. The search algorithm must know how to look within videos, and not just by title and description.
2. Find the Way to Make It Meaningful
Virtual instruction may never replicate the physical experience in every way. It certainly doesn’t at this point, for better and worse. Consequently, thinking that we can simply move learners and instructors to digital learning, and it’ll just work itself out, is unrealistic at best. Instead, we have to think up ways to recreate the experience using the tools and capabilities that videos and virtual classrooms afford us. More often than not, they complement the most up-to-date teaching methods to form a superior and meaningful learning experience.
Take Learning through argumentation, for instance. This method deepens learning by presenting contrasting concepts and sparking up debates around them. For this approach to remain possible and effective in a virtual environment, two-way communication features are essential but not enough. It’s also vital that we have the means to facilitate, control, and organize the discussion. Further research in the field shows that gamified learning improves argumentation skills.
Crossover learning merges formal and informal education by taking classrooms on field trips and tours. At first, it might seem impossible to mimic in the digital world. In fact, learning platforms can include virtual tours to anywhere in the world, meetings with anyone at all, and even time-travel. So, not only is this option not limited to the physical world, but it becomes virtually unlimited when you leave it. Oh, the places they’ll go!
Learning by teaching is another scientifically-proven method. But for some, the mere thought of standing in front of a crowd of people makes them anxious. Adding content creation and editing tools to platforms, as well as interactivity features such as on-screen polls and questionnaires, opens up new ways for learners to demonstrate and communicate information that’s doesn’t involve their worst nightmare.
3. It’s Your Chance to Personalize Learning
What fits one learner might not work as well for the next one. Some would understand quickly one thing but struggle with the next. In classrooms, teachers can sometimes spot struggling students and approach them. At work, we can encourage employees to speak up when additional information is needed.
In the online world, we can use deep data and video analytics to study each learner’s progress and create differentiated instructions and work plans. Adaptive learning is what happens when differentiated instructions meet advanced algorithms. By implementing it, teachers and instructors can finally focus on each learner’s engagement and progression.
Adaptive learning might be just what we need to add that personal touch and human interactions to learning platforms, which 85% of students believe they lack. Using breakout rooms for a more intimate setting, collaborative notetaking, digital whiteboards, and group chats could also alleviate that feeling. Either way, the idea is to create a personal learning hub along with a sense of being part of a group or a community even.
Learning is a challenge at every age. Whether in-person or virtually, it’s not always easy, and it’s certainly not always fun. Luckily, we know so much about education today, and we’ve already started implementing pedagogical findings in schools and various teaching programs. Now, it’s only a matter of translating all that to the digital world. The good news is that we already have the technology to make online learning more simple, meaningful, and personal.
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