Rethinking tools for hybrid and online learning

Over the last two decades, higher education has increased its reliance on online learning as a mechanism for increasing its reach, growing enrollment, and containing costs.

For some students this has been a godsend. It enables many to attend college amid competing pressures from work and family. However, colleges continue to struggle with issues of quality and connecting to isolated learners taking online courses.

Related content: 5 tools to create an engaging online course

Hybrid instruction leverages the strengths of online and in-person instruction, but figuring out the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning remains a thorny challenge.

Online learning does not benefit all students equally. In a study published last year Spiros Protopsaltis and Sandy Baum observed that:

Creating access to programs is a step forward, but only if those programs succeed in providing meaningful educational opportunities to students with minimal levels of academic preparation who need to develop their self-discipline, time management, and learning skills—not just have access to a specific body of information. As we seek to improve the quality of online education and reverse its poor record in an effort to ensure that it not only serves more students, but also serves them well, it is critical to promote regular and substantive student-instructor interaction. (p. 2)

The lack of student-instructor interaction should not surprise us. My colleague, Dr. Bryan Alexander, once observed that technology is adopted by humans in two phases. In the first phase, we view new technology as a more efficient but analogous version of existing technology. Hence the automobile was a “horseless carriage” first. In the second phase, the technology reshapes our fundamental processes.


Why colleges are willing to recruit other schools’ students

Many college enrollment leaders and administrators are thinking of engaging in the previously prohibited practice of recruiting students committed to or already attending other institutions, according to a new survey from EAB.

The change comes on the heels of recent revisions to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Code of Ethics and Professional Practices that liberalized student recruitment guidelines.

Related content: Does your student experience foster enrollment growth?

Institutions should enhance the onboarding process to strengthen affinity and provide structured early guidance that helps students build momentum toward a degree–tactics that are proven to improve retention through deeper engagement and will be invaluable in an environment where current students may be contacted by competitors, says Madeleine Rhyneer, EAB vice president and dean of enrollment management.


Four trends shaping the future of digital learning in higher ed

According to Babson Survey Research Group, nearly 33 percent of college students are taking at least one course online. As online higher education continues to evolve and gain popularity, it is crucial that online universities continue prioritizing student’s needs.

Following trends in the industry is one way online universities or universities offering online classes can learn what those needs are and where they can innovate to meet them.

Related content: Are we missing the boat in online learning?

As we enter a new decade, it’s clear that digital learning is the way of the future and the trends outlined below are indicators of where online universities can grow and what students expect when they choose to continue their higher education online.

Career-readiness is the top priority.

According to an annual report recapping online education trends, career advancement is the top driver of continuing education. For the first time, in 2019 a majority of students identified themselves as career accelerators who are interested in earning a degree in a field where they already work or have practical experience.


Aligning SLOs with employability

Today’s universities measure student learning outcomes (SLOs) through in-class assessments targeting the micro and macro level of a learner’s knowledge acquisition.

At the micro level, these assessments take the form of quizzes, mid-term and final exams, and evaluations of assignments submitted by students. At the macro level, SLOs feed into what administrators expect every student, regardless of specific curriculum, program, or major, to master in order to graduate. These are not skills-specific necessarily; they are ideals. These are the outcomes that students should be able “to know, think, or do across all courses” by the time they graduate.

Related content: Big data, used properly, can drive student success

The success or failure of a university’s macro-level SLOs is later assessed (voluntarily) during the accreditation process via one of the nation’s six regional accreditors. This assessment is something that the vast majority of the colleges and universities in the United States undertake currently to earn and maintain campus-wide accreditation.


Initiative zeroes in on blockchain in higher ed

​A new federally-funded and ambitious initiative aims to explore the use of blockchain technology in higher education.

The American Council on Education (ACE) has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support the Education Blockchain Initiative, which is designed to help identify and evaluate ways that blockchain technology can improve the flow of data among educational institutions and employers while empowering individuals to translate educational outcomes into economic opportunity.

Related content: How will blockchain transform higher education?

It will include the launch of a competitive challenge to fund pilot programs later this year.

“This work is about exploring the potential of blockchain technology to give learners greater control over their educational records,” says Ted Mitchell, president of ACE. “It’s about enabling more seamless transitions between and across K-12, higher education, and the workforce. This initiative will explore how this nascent technology can break down barriers for opportunity seekers to fully unlock their learning and achievement.”


College launches start-up accelerator for student entrepreneurs

A Maryland community college is gearing up to launch a start-up business accelerator for student entrepreneurs.

Montgomery College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education (WDCE) Program will offer a program for budding entrepreneurs in Montgomery County (MD) to gain start-up business resources and get newly created businesses registered.

Related content: 4 insights about higher-ed innovation

The college joins others around the nation that support local start-ups and student entrepreneurs. For example, the University of Cincinnati recently opened up its Venture Lab to students and staff from nearby institutions.

Montgomery College’s program, named LaunchCamp, starts April 7 and is a 12-week sprint for entrepreneurial-minded students to turn their ideas into registered businesses with identified customers.


Online program helps improve how teachers teach with tech

[Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the University of Michigan’s site and is reposted here with permission.]

Step into any K-12 classroom and chances are the students will at one point during the day be engaged with technology using a computer, tablet, or other device.

Yet those who lead these classroom activities often are the first to admit they haven’t a clue how to integrate digital tools in a way that effectively promotes learning.

Related content: 5 tools to create a meaningful online course

A new online certification program from the University of Michigan School of Education, developed in partnership with the U-M Center for Academic Innovation, offers current K-12 teachers, technology coaches and administrators the opportunity to learn how to effectively integrate technology into classroom teaching so that it adds value to learning.


4 takeaways from a successful badging initiative

In Colorado, digital badging is on the rise. The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) has built badging initiatives around technical math, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare and the badges are working. In fact, the system currently offers more than 85 badges.

CCCS developed a badge for an advanced manufacturing software program. A company called the CCCS office and said it had trouble finding people that could operate its software. Students shared their badges and within weeks the company filled the open seats.

Related content: How to do digital badging the right way

In Boulder, students who earned horticulture badges received a raise from the city of Boulder Parks & Recreation department.

Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned.


Why lifelong learning matters for all ages

In an ever-changing global workforce, today’s students are developing skills to make them productive members of tomorrow’s workforce. Perhaps one of the most important skills they’ll learn is lifelong learning.

A new report highlights lifelong learning’s prominent part in higher ed and the workforce and delves into its potential to impact the nation’s economic and global success.

Related content: Keeping pace with lifelong learning demands

Future of Lifelong Learning: Designing for a Learning-Integrated Life, a new whitepaper from D2L released during the 2020 Education World Forum, focuses on the future of work and learning. The paper describes how these forces and the interactions between them are permeating all aspects of our society, driving an increasing need for lifelong learning.


How to teach with 3D anatomy tools

How is it possible that someone who has been involved in developing 3D anatomy technologies for 12 years took 7 of those years to find a way to teach with it effectively?

I prided myself on being a great teacher. In every possible sense – a good explainer, an innovator, a student advocate. And I was killing it in the lecture hall and in the lab, teaching in the ways that I learned from my great teaching mentors. So how was it that after 7 years of working with 3D anatomy technologies as a product developer (Cyber-Anatomy/VIVED Learning), I wasn’t really using the technology that much in my teaching?

Related content: How your campus can tap into extended reality

I think a part of me was afraid of technology failures. I knew that running a huge simulation over the web just fails sometimes. I was also discouraged when I saw students starting to work with the software themselves. They clicked around aimlessly, and turned to ask the exact same question they asked in the cadaver lab – “What am I supposed to see here?” So I held back my trust and kept doing what I’d always been doing – PowerPoint-based lectures and dissection labs.

That is, until I had a problem in my dissection labs that I just couldn’t fix.