Remote education nowadays refers to any kind of teaching or training that is conducted online. It is a form of distance learning that utilizes technology to deliver lessons to students who are in a different place than their instructors. It can be synchronous, meaning that the lessons happen in real time, or asynchronous, meaning that students access pre-recorded content on demand, or a combination of both.
Remote education has been slowly gaining a foothold for years, especially in higher and continuing education, but the pandemic accelerated the process. It forced schools around the world to transition from in-person instruction to online, practically overnight, creating an urgent need for new online learning systems and methods.
Many of those schools have since returned to in-person classes, but not before prompting a major leap forward in the educational technology (EdTech) used to administer virtual classes as well as a fuller understanding of the best practices for online teaching. Additionally, a large percentage of the population has now been exposed to remote education, either directly or through a family member, resulting in a wider awareness of its strengths, its challenges, and most importantly, its potential.
- Advantages of remote education
- Why can remote education be challenging?
- Tools and solutions that improve online education
- Future trends in online education
- How to start the remote education process
- Kaltura solutions for remote education
- Final thoughts
Advantages of remote education
Remote education increases access to quality instruction. Unlike in-person learning, in which a program is only available to those within a certain area, remote classes can potentially be available to anybody in the world with an internet connection. This makes it possible for learners to participate in programs that, in the past, would not have been a realistic option due to their location.
Asynchronous programs offer further flexibility since students can create their own schedules and go at their own pace. This is a major benefit for adult learners who may be balancing their education with work and family obligations. Younger students with fewer responsibilities can also benefit from having access to recorded class materials, allowing them to rewatch lessons or catch up on course material they missed.
One other major benefit of remote education is its cost-efficient potential. Organizations can offer lower tuition since the overhead expenses necessary for maintaining physical classroom spaces are reduced, or in some cases eliminated. Plus, students face fewer out-of-pocket expenses such as those associated with travel to and from school, or room & board while completing a program away from home.
Why can remote education be challenging?
Despite the advantages, remote learning also presents real challenges. The most immediate challenge is that everybody learns differently, and some students find it difficult to focus on lessons delivered via a device in their homes. These students may become easily distracted, have trouble retaining information from lessons, and overall feel a decreased level of motivation toward their schoolwork.
Another issue of remote education is isolation. With children and teenagers, face-to-face social interaction with their peers is regarded as crucial for their development. Unfortunately, there is no way to truly replicate the social dynamics that exist in a school setting via online instruction and the long-term impact that wide-scale virtual learning will have on young people and society is not yet fully understood. Isolation can be a problem for adult learners too, many of whom consider the lack of in-person interaction with their classmates and instructors to be a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, teachers must adapt to interacting with students over a screen, which requires a fundamentally different approach in comparison to standing in front of a class. Instructors need to learn how to best use the new electronic platforms and teaching tools used for remote education, which can understandably be frustrating.
There are other technical challenges to consider. Some of them are as rudimentary as bad audio or improper lighting of the instructor. These may seem minor, but they could easily undermine an entire lesson by reducing students’ ability to focus and comprehend. Other common technical problems like software compatibility issues or a weak internet signal are also liable to interfere with the online learning process.
Tools and solutions that improve online education
The best tools for improving remote education are those that make it easier to understand the material while keeping students engaged. Multi-media in the form of videos, music, animations, and even educational video games can be used to improve concentration and make online classes more enjoyable. Likewise, interactive polls and quizzes are an effective way to draw students in and refocus their attention away from external distractions.
For instructors, the most useful tools are those that allow them to monitor students’ progress and communicate with them one-on-one to make sure they are keeping up with the class. It is much harder for teachers to visually gauge an individual student’s attention level over a screen than it is in a classroom, but there are applications available that alert instructors to those students who are not engaging with the lesson.
Improved communication capabilities such as live chat, private chat, and breakout rooms go a long way to making up for the lack of face-to-face social interactions in remote education at all age levels.
Future trends in online education
In the near term, there is little reason to believe that online education will completely replace traditional instruction. Still, experts assume that it will remain an option and continue to gain in popularity over the coming years. Presumably, as students grow comfortable learning outside of a customary environment, the technology improves, and instructors become more adept at delivering lessons online, remote education will eventually come to be widely considered as comparable–or possibly preferable–to in-person learning.
Looking further into the future, it is predicted that virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) will soon allow students to more immersively interact with class materials in a 3D virtual environment. It is not hard to imagine a day when teachers and students gather virtually within the metaverse, rather than in a brick-and-mortar classroom, and when incredibly complex training simulations are delivered online to participants anywhere in the world.
How to start the remote education process
Launching a remote education program requires planning and preparation. The first question to answer is whether all the students have access to a sufficient computer, laptop, or tablet as well as a reliable internet connection. Often, these are considered prerequisites for enrolling, making it the responsibility of the student to obtain them. However, certain programs are required to ensure that all students are able to connect, in which case the school is responsible for purchasing and distributing the devices.
The next priority is identifying an ideal online platform. This is where the live lessons will take place virtually and where students will access recorded lessons and other class materials. There are many platform providers to choose from but they don’t all have the same capabilities, so it is important to research the options and determine which platform is the best fit for the curriculum, budget, and all stakeholders (students, instructors, administrators, etc.) The needs of those with disabilities must also be considered when selecting a platform.
Finally, since remote instruction differs from in-person learning, it is necessary to adapt lessons for the digital classroom. In some cases, this may mean creating a new syllabus and lesson plans from scratch. It is further necessary to retrain teachers and students in how classes will be conducted, the use of the new platform, and the nature of remote education in general.
Kaltura solutions for remote education
Kaltura’s Virtual Classroom is a robust video platform specifically designed to meet the exacting needs of modern-day remote learning. Instructors and students can connect to a branded learning environment from anywhere in the world with no software installation necessary. Interactive tools like whiteboards, breakout rooms, quizzes, and live polls keep students engaged, while advanced moderator controls allow for easy management of the classroom. There’s even an attention indicator to let instructors know which students are truly paying attention.
The Virtual Classroom integrates with all major Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Moodle, Canvas, and Blackboard, and can be used to record lessons to the cloud along with automatic lesson transcription and user-friendly editing tools. Advanced analytics offer valuable insights on attendance, engagement, and other relevant data for improving the learning experience for all students.
Remote education has its many pluses and minuses. It can impart knowledge past barriers, yet still can’t truly duplicate certain essential classroom experiences. However, we have recently seen rapid innovation in the field due to vast improvements in communication infrastructures worldwide along with a temporary need for social distancing on a massive scale. As technology continues to innovate, it is sure to become a part of our day-to-day lives, permanently transforming all aspects of modern-day education.
Ready to make your remote education program more flexible and efficient? Check out Kaltura Virtual Classroom!