Is Distance Education More Than A Band-Aid To Get Us Through COVID-19?

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Trends In eLearning + Staying Up To Date With Tech

This is a question many educators ask themselves as our world slowly but surely moves online. Whether out of necessity or preference, we now find ourselves having to adapt to new ways of teaching online. Transitioning from a physical to a virtual classroom came with new challenges for many educators. However, recent advancements in learning technologies brought with them new and innovative solutions. The trends we’re seeing have surprised us. Let’s take a look at them.

Key Remote Education Trends Since The Onset Of The Pandemic

Here, we’ll explore 3 *surprising* trends we’ve seen since schools across the globe were forced to implement remote education processes.

1. Students Plan To Continue Taking Online Courses After Schools Return To Classrooms

According to a report from Best Colleges, 49% of students who are enrolled in online classes plan to continue, even after their campuses return to in-person coursework. So, for their own reasons, many students appreciate the distance learning environment.

2. ⅓ Of Higher Learning Administrators Say They’ll Keep Offering Distance Learning Options, Even When They’re Not Required

Recent information collected by educationdata.org shows that 33% of college and trade school admins are planning to offer both online and offline education choices for students, even after governments ease up on social distancing requirements. If you plan to teach at this level, you’ll almost certainly need to stay up to date on the latest remote teaching developments.

3. Teachers Could Become The New “Influencers” On Social Media

The Journal published an article earlier this year about the ways in which education is forever changed; their top prediction is that teachers will become “massive social media influencers.” If you decide to ride this wave, you’ll need to be in the know about EdTech as well as new media marketing and communication trends.

From what we see here, it looks as though distance learning is here to stay. So, how can you settle into the online learning environment? The trick is to take a no-holds-barred look at your processes and get comfortable with technology.

This Is How To Stay On The Cutting Edge Of Remote Teaching

With the right tech, educators are now in the position to not just settle on distance learning as temporary damage control until we return to “normal.” On the contrary, we have the means to deliver teaching in a way that better suits the students of today.

So, how do you make top-quality distance learning your reality?

Size Up Your Current Teaching Processes

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to distance learning. What works for one school—or one individual class—may be completely different from the requirements of another. You need to be brutally honest with yourself.

The last thing you want is your new tech to be a problem instead of a solution. That’s why it’s important to first evaluate your current teaching processes and think critically about how new tech can fit into them. You can start by asking yourself:

  • What is currently working for you and your students?
  • *What processes have not translated well into a distance learning environment?
  • Which lesson formats do students engage with best?
  • Are any of your students currently being left behind?

Once you have your answers, it’s time to look for tools and resources that help you fill in any gaps in your current teaching processes and optimize distance learning for your students.

Online Teaching Tools And Resources

Here are some tools and features you should consider when deciding what tech to include in your distance teaching strategy.

Student Discussion

Students and educators alike still need to be able to communicate with each other. There are many different ways in which you can facilitate student discussion in distance learning. To choose a tool which meets your teaching needs, consider the following:

  • Do you want discussions to take place in real time?
  • Do you want students to be able to keep coming back to the discussion?
  • How will you engage students in keeping the conversation going?

If you don’t require real-time discussion, many online communication tools have a discussion board feature that allows students to leave comments or ask questions in their own time. This could be a great way to encourage students to open up and share ideas without the pressure of having to speak in front of the class.

Live communication tools, such as video conferencing software and chat for education have been a hit for real-time discussion and collaboration. You can also live stream your lessons and field questions from the same platform. You could also increase student engagement by adding a custom messaging feature to your live streams. This would facilitate discussion in real time and help students communicate with you and each other.

Virtual Classroom

Recreating a shared space for teachers and students to work together is likely to be something you’ll want to prioritize. A virtual classroom allows you to provide a learning experience for your students that is similar to the physical classroom environment they are familiar with.

A Learning Management System (LMS) is your one-stop-shop to an effective virtual classroom environment. Most modern LMS platforms allow educators to organize learning materials, post assignments, and make announcements all in one place. Some web-based platforms even allow you to integrate video conferencing and live document sharing to create a truly collaborative learning environment.

You could even bring a bit of fun into your virtual classroom by using LMS gamification features, such as badges and achievements, to encourage greater student engagement. These tools can really boost engagement, especially attendance.

Mobile Apps

Educators might not have been ready for such rapid digital transformation, but students probably were. We’re living in a time where 95% of students in the US have a smartphone or access to one. This opens up new avenues for learning tech.

Educational mobile apps, for example, can both enhance and support learning practices by allowing instant access to learning content from anywhere at any time. They also have the benefit of being a learning experience that more closely matches how students interact with others outside of the classroom.

Many educational apps are built around a central dashboard onto which each student can log in and access the learning material assigned to them. Students can also be encouraged to do their own self-directed learning if the app contains its own curated library of lessons and resources.

Cloud Storage And File Sharing Services

You can’t teach a class without being able to share resources. In distance learning, this is best done through file sharing. Email is of course an option for sending out and receiving files, but using cloud storage and file-sharing services streamlines the process for you and your students.

Having an online repository of learning materials all in one place allows you to quickly share files with students or colleagues. Files are stored in a secure, cloud-based location with access rights fully customizable so you can set exactly who you want to be able to see and edit particular files. Another feature of cloud storage services is they allow multiple people to work on documents at once—perfect for getting students engaged in group-based activities or projects.

Course Authoring Tools

There are a large number of course authoring tools available that let you create new digital content for your students. These course authoring tools allow you to create full-fledged courses that bring new interactivity to your lessons, such as built-in quizzes, various user scenarios, and video functionality. This will help students not only engage in your course content but also retain it.

Some popular authoring tools allow you to repurpose existing PowerPoint slides and convert presentations to the mobile-ready HTML5 format. You can then go on and enhance the content with more features, such as those already mentioned, like quizzes. This allows you to efficiently create new and exciting learning processes for your students.

Conclusion

From the current trends, it seems that distance teaching isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it seems that remote learning might become the new normal. The distance learning environment can be a place for innovation. With a little research and the right tech, you can revolutionize your teaching and enhance your students’ distance learning experience. Which online teaching tools and resources could benefit you and your students?

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