Will a full return for students mean a more traditional campus or a “post-pandemic version of normality.”
Russ Poulin, general manager of the NPO WICHE cooperative for educational technologies (WCET), says colleges and universities have reached an inflection point” when it comes to digital learning.
While institutions and the many courses they offer will likely return to normal this fall, some options and tools implemented during the pandemic are likely to remain. Both faculty and students believe that the elements of online learning have value.
“Now the challenge is to scale faculty development and student support systems to make the most of technology,” Poulin said.
WCET is one of many organizations – including the Online Learning Consortium, Professional University and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), Canadian Association for Research in Digital Learning and engage – who drove the most recent Digital Learning Pulse Survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on learning and engagement in higher education.
The survey, which polled more than 1,700 professors and administrators at nearly 1,000 colleges and universities, showed that 51% of faculty members are “more positive” about remote learning than they are. were last March. Almost the same number say their “very different” teaching methods and models are likely to continue.
“The fall 2020 term showed that higher education faculty and administrators were extremely nimble and adaptable as their preparation over the summer enabled them to support a massive shift to online learning” , said Jeff Seaman, principal investigator and director of Bay view analysis, who conducted the investigation. “The change has forced teachers to implement new teaching styles, many of which intend to continue post-pandemic.”
In fact, when asked if they would maintain or increase the use of digital materials, an overwhelming 81% of colleges and universities said yes. This number before the pandemic hovered around 25%.
Embrace digital learning
For students who want more flexibility and the ability to use technology tools to enhance their learning, the online component is often essential to help them balance their studies, employment and, in some cases, caring for family members. their family.
“Research on the experience of faculty and students with COVID-19 is critically important in helping us understand opportunities for short-term faculty and student support,” said Angela Gunder, Director of Online Learning Consortium studies. “Study after study has shown that students prefer blended learning modalities and how they get the most out of what online and face-to-face classes have to offer.”
While just over 50% of teachers are more optimistic about digital learning, this number is even higher for digital media (57%). About half of faculty members say they are satisfied with the support they receive from colleagues and universities.
“More and more faculty have become more comfortable with digital technologies, which is exciting because it means they may be perfectly positioned to take advantage of more blended learning approaches in addition to portfolios. online as we return to a post-pandemic version of normality,” Gunder said.
The numbers highlight this success: 76% of teachers said they were satisfied with the way they communicated with students, 78% said they were satisfied with the effectiveness of the technology, and 68% said they were satisfied with the quality of student learning. If there’s one area for improvement, it might be engagement: only half say they’re satisfied.
Fernando Bleichmar, Executive Vice President and General Manager of US Higher Education at Cengage added, “Even under pressure to move quickly to these new models, faculty are finding value in digital learning, and it’s encouraging to see that many are considering keeping new formats in place post-pandemic.
Institutions are also on board. Less than a quarter of those surveyed said they used online homework systems before the pandemic. This number has changed significantly – with nearly 60% implementing widespread use and 74% saying it will continue or increase as the fall semester opens.
“It is clear that higher education leaders have learned the key lessons brought by the pandemic and have a renewed appreciation for the value of online learning,” said Robert Hansen, chief executive of UPCEA. “Developing methodologies and processes to institutionalize these lessons into sustainable digital initiatives will benefit students, faculty and the institution immeasurably.”
One area that could be improved, according to survey responses, is the professional development of administrators, who overwhelmingly say support is inadequate. This support must also continue for all those involved in the digital learning space.
“Quality online learning provides a flexible and necessary option for students, but services and support for students and faculty along the way are essential for a successful learning experience,” Bleichmar said.