As schools are strategically thinking about how to create and activate a virtual school year, it’s time to look at the big picture. One point of critical focus is to evaluate all the pieces of the virtual puzzle and question: Is my college using the right tools?
A few successful institutions include Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), Western University of Health Sciences, New York University, Cuyahoga Community College and the University of Leeds, due to their focus on one important piece that others may be overlooking: the incredible value in mixing live and on-demand video learning with student-instructor collaboration via web conferencing. Striking that balance is key.
Think of it this way: If conferencing systems like Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft Teams are your virtual, real-time classrooms, then streaming video is your textbook. The flipped classroom concept, blending video content with real-time discussion, has never been more relevant than it is today.
Take NEOMED, for example. The school is planning for a live hybrid fall complete with a rotating schedule for on-site and online students and an essential mix of streaming live and on-demand video lectures and Zoom collaborative calls. Medical students will get a front-row seat to all classes, demos, simulations and campus events, regardless of where they are learning. Here’s how:
NEOMED plans to have staff and faculty record lectures for students to watch prior to class in their LMS. Instructors and students—both in-person and online—will then spend class time connected via Zoom to discuss rigorous topics, focusing on the areas where further instruction would be most useful.
It is important to recognize which tools are effective for different aspects of hybrid and distance learning. While Zoom meetings are great for certain things like small group discussions, they are not ideal for an hour-long lecture. Not only is it not engaging, the format can be distracting. Students have said they prefer lecture content to be on-demand so they can self-pace and time-shift their learning, which are key benefits of streaming video.
Like anything, having the right tools for the job is critical. Fully virtualized schools need to establish four key areas of technology.
1. Personalized learning with video streaming: This lets students learn at their own pace. It is perfect for lectures, micro-learning or delivering content ahead of collaborative small group calls. Students view on-demand video recordings as the most effective for lessons because they can watch on their own time, revisit content as often as they need and adjust the pace of the content being delivered.
2. Collaboration with web conferencing: Zoom was the immediate go-to tech for most schools. Yes, it is great for office hours, real-time dialogue with students and for students working together on projects. But students have voiced their frustration with lectures being delivered using web conferencing tools like Zoom, Teams or WebEx.
3. Going live in empty classroom ‘studios’: It’s very likely that instructors will be most comfortable teaching online from the classroom, and that’s understandable. Even if a class is fully online, consider using empty rooms as recording studios. Go live or make the content available on-demand with the one-to-many streaming technologies that are already automated and integrated into familiar teaching spaces. Take advantage of the empty space (if it’s deemed safe to do so).
4. Promoting video content in the LMS: A learning management system is key to all of this, whether in person or virtual. It helps you make sure all of the video content is available in one secure place where students and instructors are most comfortable
Flipping instruction and not simply replicating the classroom model online is critical to the success of this new normal.
Post pandemic, once classes resume on campus, a blended approach to virtual learning is likely to be the new normal. While there probably isn’t going to be a world where campuses stay 100 percent virtual, they are equally unlikely to be 100% in person. A mix of physical and virtual classrooms together with online learning is the persistent long-term solution and thoughtful decisions today will be useful in preparing for a post-pandemic world.
Rob Lipps is executive vice president of sales at Sonic Foundry, the maker of the streaming video and management solution Mediasite.