Joint research from EDUCAUSE and Cisco, including two surveys and several in-depth institution studies, reveals that higher-ed tech leaders have had to change their fall learning plans multiple times as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

In June, 40 percent of surveyed higher-ed tech leaders said their institutions planned for mostly in-person classes in the fall, compared to fewer than 5 percent in August.

Related content: Prioritizing students when planning for fall

Eighty-two percent of institutions were considering hybrid teaching in June, and by August, 76 percent of those surveyed had finalized plans to offer hybrid courses in the fall.

A mix of solutions and delivery methods is enabling hybrid learning. Seventy percent of respondents said most or all of their courses would offer remote students the ability to download or stream recorded classroom sessions.

For roughly half of respondents, most or all of their courses would offer live streaming, video capture, and microphone and speaker integration. Only about a third of respondents reported that most or all of their courses would include video screens to display remote students.

Most higher-ed tech leaders seem to voice common concerns when it comes to managing the move online.

1. Doing more with less. One of the key challenges is the strain on financial resources and the strain on staffing. As IT and facilities departments are called upon to lead their institutions through major adjustments and changes, many are also being asked to do so in the midst of staff shortages, hiring freezes, and budget cuts.

2. Solutions that aren’t. Many institutions are encountering the issue of rushed or ineffective solutions that aren’t quite what higher-ed tech leaders intended or needed.

3. The responsibilities of others. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges institutions are facing is the human element. No matter how great the technology or how thoughtful the physical space planning or how thorough the cleaning protocols, institutions cannot monitor and police all of the activities of students, faculty, and staff, particularly in off-campus settings with differing safety measures in place.

3 promising higher-ed tech practices emerging from the new COVID normal

In the wake of challenges, though, come promising practices:

1. Hard work now, success later. The front-end work of creating resources for staff, faculty, and students requires significant amounts of planning, time, and effort, but some study participants have suggested that the right investment in providing these resources upfront will help reduce the strain on facilities and technology staff further down the road.

2. Seizing the moment. Faculty development is a perennial challenge for institutions in building and improving remote and hybrid learning experiences, and it may be easier now than ever for IT and technology staff to start to build trust and engagement with their faculty.

3. Digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation. As faculty are being asked to adapt and find new ways of working, so too are many of the institution’s core functions and services changing. Current circumstances might provide many institutions with a window to finally update ineffective or inefficient business or administrative models.

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About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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