With the shutdown of campuses across the country this spring, colleges and universities scrambled to create a seamless remote learning experience, providing students with the quality education and connectivity they had inside their classrooms.
While many higher education institutions were unprepared for this rapid shift to online learning, there is still time to improve student engagement and ensure that students and faculty are receiving the support they need, especially as schools consider extending remote learning into the fall and fear lower enrollment rates.
As virtual education continues to evolve, higher ed leaders should consider the following three strategies for increasing access to resources and better positioning both students and faculty for success.
1. Provide faculty with better resources for use during remote teaching
It’s easy for students to become disengaged during virtual education, especially considering potential technology issues and the plethora of distractions when learning at home. As a result, many students feel they’re not receiving the same quality of education they’re paying for.
Proactively checking in with students through their preferred method of communication is key for helping them navigate these challenging months.
It’s important that professors understand that learning through a screen is much different (and more difficult) than learning in person. Professors will need to rethink curriculums for disciplines that may not translate as easily to an online environment and use online resources to make classes and assignments as interactive and hands-on as possible. Learning how to effectively teach various classes beyond the standard lecture format will help make learning from home a bit easier for students, especially as they’re learning new course material and digesting everything that’s going on in the world.
2. Give students a technology-backed outlet to express their concerns and struggles
University staff members had their suspicions that students weren’t checking emails and learning management systems, and the pandemic has made that clearer than ever. Higher ed institutions have to get creative with their communication strategies, leveraging SMS texting and videos, etc., to connect with students, especially now.
Proactively checking in with students through their preferred method of communication is key for helping them navigate these challenging months. In our current circumstances, students across the country are struggling with unemployment, lack of access to Wi-Fi, food and housing insecurity, and mental health issues. Creating an open channel of communication with students in which colleges and universities can send and receive information in real time provides students with a private means to share concerns without fear of human judgment, and it allows schools to connect them to targeted resources.
3. Offer opportunities for students to collaborate with peers online
While students have had to adjust to learning at home, another issue that will still be present if online learning continues is the lack of human interaction. Students are not engaging with their classmates nearly as often during remote learning. To provide a similar on-campus learning environment, faculty should ensure that students collaborate and discuss course material with one another.
Assigning group projects in which students are able to work together and digitally interact can go a long way toward improving mental health. With 1 in 5 students reporting their mental health has significantly worsened during the pandemic, providing the opportunity to regularly engage with and lean on classmates can make a difference.
With the current state of the world, we don’t know when things will go back to normal, or what that will look like. Institutions are learning that they have to be able to quickly switch to an online model if needed. The institutions that become comfortable with a hybrid education model are the ones that will survive the upcoming semesters and emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.
Carolina and Claudia Recchi are sisters and co-founders of EdSights, an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot designed to improve student retention and wellness in higher ed.
UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.