3 reasons COVID-19 should spur digital transformation

At the end of 2019, college presidents were asked what they saw as the greatest challenges for higher education in 2020 and the results are fascinating given the way the year has gone. Although none of the responders knew just how drastically 2020 would change higher education, their responses still reflect the most valid concerns in the industry – digital transformation.

It’s become clear that COVID-19 has effectively become the “tech tipping point” for higher education, and although the current educational landscape poses significant challenges, it also offers unparalleled opportunities to develop long-term digital transformation and new strategies in academia.

Related content: 7 examples of digital transformation in higher ed

The current educational landscape provides colleges and universities with the opportunity to evolve the traditional education model into one that not only addresses their short-terms needs, but also helps tackle the biggest challenges in education – including affordability, student-centric learning, and adult studies.

Making education more affordable

For many students, the cost of higher education prevents them from attending a traditional learning institution. With a world-wide closure of educational institutions, it’s time for college administrators to take a look at how eLearning programs can improve accessibility for more students.


NBCUniversal News Group Launches Nbcu Academy, Offering On-Campus Training and Education to Universities and Community Colleges Across the Country

Initiative Includes Scholarships, Journalism Program Funding and Access to World-Class NBCU News Group Journalists—Creating Pathways for Diverse Storytellers

NBCUniversal News Group launched NBCU Academy, a new, innovative, multiplatform journalism training and development program for four-year university and community college students through education, on-campus training and online programming. The initiative includes a curated onsite curriculum for hands-on learning experience with world-class NBCU News Group journalists, funding for accredited journalism programs and scholarships.

In keeping with Comcast NBCUniversal and NBCU News Group’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the multi-year partnership involves 17 academic partners including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and colleges with significant Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous and tribal populations – reaching students from underrepresented groups including those from diverse racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, economic, and geographic backgrounds.

“Creating an inclusive culture for journalism that represents the communities we serve is at the very core of what we do,” said NBCU News Group Chairman Cesar Conde. “Through NBCU Academy, we have the opportunity to widen our extraordinary legacy by building on-ramps for a talented generation of journalists and storytellers who—for so long—may have been overlooked.”

NBCU Academy will invest a total of $6.5 million to the initiative, including scholarships worth $3.5 million over the next two years. In addition to providing equipment and collaborating with professors to develop seminar courses, NBCU News Group journalists, executives and management from editorial and production teams across NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo News will participate as guest lecturers to provide real-world insight and mentorship. In addition, NBCU Academy will create and offer educational content to help inform, inspire and develop early career professionals and seasoned journalists who want to remain up-to-date on changes in this fast-moving industry.

Academic partners include:

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York, NY
  • California State University, Fullerton in Fullerton, CA
  • Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC
  • Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA
  • Dallas College in Dallas, TX
  • El Camino College in Torrance, CA
  • Florida International University in Miami, FL
  • Hampton University in Hampton, VA
  • Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM
  • Miami Dade College in Miami, FL
  • Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD
  • North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC
  • Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in Orangeburg, SC
  • The City College of New York in New York, NY
  • University of North Texas in Denton, TX
  • University of Texas at El Paso in El Paso, TX
  • Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA

NBCU Academy builds on the foundation of NBC University, which NBC News launched nearly a decade ago as a training program for young journalism professionals at diversity journalism conferences and conventions, including at the Asian American Journalists Association, The National Association of Black Journalists, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association, the Online News Association and many more. NBCU Academy is an expansion of that initiative, offering new institutional partnerships.

In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced a multi-year $100 million commitment to help address systemic racism and inequality. NBCU Academy is part of that pledge and focuses on providing tools, resources, and platforms for young, underrepresented voices. In July 2020, NBCU News Group announced the Fifty Percent Challenge Initiative, an aggressive action plan to turn the NBCU News Group employee base to be 50% women and 50% people of color.



SNU Announces New Online Master’s Degree Program in Instructional Design and Technology

Southern Nazarene University (SNU)—a private, Christian, liberal arts university that offers flexible degree-completion and graduate programs for working adults through its College of Professional and Graduate Studies—today announced a new online Master’s degree program in the field of Instructional Design and Technology. Applications for prospective students are now open, with the first cohort set to begin coursework on Sept. 1, 2021.

Demand for instructional designers is particularly high as companies and schools must pivot to more distance learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With technology playing a more significant role in curricula at all levels of education and corporate training, along with an increased focus on meeting the learning needs of every student, there is an urgent need for graduates with proper training. In addition, very few institutions that are part of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) offer instructional design and technology graduate programs. SNU’s College of Professional and Graduate Studies is well-equipped to fill these gaps in the market.

“Many Christian colleges and universities are left to hire instructional designers who potentially lack experience and competence in integrating faith into course designs,” said SNU’s Program Director and AVP for Instructional Strategies Dr. Scott Marsee. “SNU is considered a leader in many areas of education, and this program will add a new dimension that would set us apart as a leading educator for instructional designers that operate from a Christian worldview.”

The Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology prepares scholarly practitioners to serve in leadership roles within the field and improve learning and performance within a variety of environments, including K-12, higher education, healthcare, the military, and business. The program emphasizes foundational theories and practices, instructional design and human performance processes, project management and leadership, ethics and legal implications, and the evaluation and integration of technologies. Students in this program take one class at a time so they can master one subject before moving onto the next.

To learn more about this degree program and to begin the application process, visit SNU’s instructional design and technology program page and its “What to Expect from Online Adult Education” page.


Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University (SNU) seeks to make Christlike disciples through higher education in Christ-centered community. Its College of Professional and Graduate Studies is designed for working adults, offering degree-completion and graduate programs to prepare them to succeed in their individual career paths. All classes take place completely online or one evening a week, so students can accomplish their goals while working full-time and caring for a family. With campuses in Bethany and Tulsa, as well as classrooms in Del City, various satellite classrooms, and online options, there are opportunities to learn from any location.

For more information, visit https://pgs.snu.edu/.


No COVID test, no university Wi-Fi

The University of Arizona will require students who live in dorms or attend in-person classes on the main campus to be tested weekly for COVID-19 in the spring. Failure to comply will result in students losing access to the university’s Wi-Fi network, President Robert C. Robbins said Dec. 7 in his weekly virtual briefing on the university’s reentry progress.

The university also will begin offering a new swish-gargle PCR test in addition to nasal swab antigen and PCR testing in the spring. The new test involves swishing and gargling a saline solution, then spitting into a tube. Results are usually available the same day.

In addition to the new testing requirements for on-campus students, off-campus students who plan on visiting campus to access other services – such as the library or Student Recreation Center – will be expected to have taken a diagnostic test in the previous week, Robbins said.

Students who do not fulfill testing requirements or expectations will not have university Wi-Fi access until they comply with testing or receive an approved exemption, he said.


Learn how this professor boosts student engagement during COVID

Coming into this fall semester, Kelly Wilding, a part-time professor at Point Park University, knew it would be a challenge to create a tight bond among her class of 13 students in City-University Life, a mandatory course for first-year students.

The pandemic led to the implementation of a hyflex format at Point Park, in which students split time learning in person and online. Additionally, students had the option of taking the class fully online.

As a student in the Ph.D. in Community Engagement program at Point Park, Wilding was mindful of the family-like atmosphere that was built in her cohort.

“We communicate regularly, study together, socialize outside of school, support each other academically and personally, and genuinely care about each other,” Wilding said. “I asked myself how I could draw upon the experiences of my cohort in a much shorter time frame, and how can I facilitate relationships in a hyflex class?”


Nureva HDL300 system is now Microsoft Teams certified

Nureva Inc., an innovator in advanced audio conferencing solutions, announces that its Nureva HDL300 audio conferencing system is now certified as a Microsoft Teams Room device. After undergoing Microsoft’s rigorous testing process, the HDL300 system becomes the first microphone and speaker bar to be certified for large meeting spaces up to 15′ x 28′ (4.5 x 8.5 m). Powered by patented Microphone Mist™ technology, the HDL300 system fills a room with 8,192 virtual microphones so in-room participants can move around, maintain physical distance and still be heard clearly by remote participants. Unlike traditional audio conferencing systems for large spaces, there isn’t a need for a DSP, complex installation and calibration of multiple components such as table-top pods and ceiling mics. IT teams can quickly and easily install and set up the HDL300 system in under an hour. The system hangs on a wall with two screws and connects via USB to a computer with Teams software. It calibrates automatically and continuously so the Teams Room is always ready to go – even if it has been reconfigured to accommodate changing uses or distancing protocols.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teams has become indispensable to a growing number of organizations and education institutions around the globe that have shifted to a hybrid model, where a combination of workers or learners are physically in the same space, alongside those who are remote. Recent data show that daily active Teams users climbed to over 115 million at the end of October, and more than 230,000 education institutions are using Teams for remote and hybrid learning. As those numbers continue to grow, reliable audio conferencing that is easy to implement and manage will continue to be an essential aspect of any IT strategy to support collaboration. The HDL300 provides Teams customers with a new certified device option that is ideally suited to meet this need.

“As the global adoption of Teams continues to grow, so will the need for reliable audio conferencing solutions that deliver performance without complexity,” said Nancy Knowlton, Nureva’s CEO. “We are thrilled that the HDL300 is the first microphone and speaker bar to be certified for Microsoft Teams in large meeting rooms, demonstrating its unique ability to provide full-room microphone coverage from a single device.”

“The rapid shift to hybrid models of working and learning has created an urgent need for solutions that make it easy to fully support the needs of dispersed teams without compromise,” said Albert Kooiman, Microsoft’s senior director of Microsoft Teams Devices Partner Engineering and Certification. “We were excited to see how Nureva’s HDL300 system delivers the audio performance we demand for certification with a product that is so simple to install and use.”

About Nureva audio solutions
Nureva’s line of audio conferencing systems solve the frustrating and persistent problem of poor audio performance in meeting and learning spaces from large to small. Nureva’s patented Microphone Mist technology places thousands of virtual microphones throughout a space to pick up sound from any location, ensuring that everyone is clearly heard regardless of where they are in the room or the direction they are facing. The systems use sophisticated algorithms to simultaneously process sound from all virtual microphones to provide remote participants with a clear, reliable listening experience. Broad deployment of multiple Nureva systems is supported by Nureva Console, a cloud-based platform that makes it easy for organizations to manage their systems across multiple locations from a single, secure dashboard. For more information, visit the Nureva website.

About Nureva
Nureva Inc. is a technology-rich, multiple award-winning private company that imagines and builds audio conferencing solutions that solve the frustrating and persistent problem of poor audio performance in meeting and learning spaces. At the core of every system is the company’s patented Microphone Mist technology, which places thousands of virtual microphones throughout a space to pick up sound from anywhere in the room and deliver clear, reliable audio to remote participants. A passion for achieving simplicity through deep user understanding drives the company’s product roadmap and the value it creates for its customers. For more information, visit Nureva’s website and follow  @NurevaInc.


3 ways to design inclusive learning classes online

Last spring, you made a heroic effort to rapidly transition your course to online delivery in response to a campus closure. It’s important now to take a moment to consider how your students adapted then and this fall, and how you can design inclusive learning approaches after considering the equity and access issues resulting from this change in delivery.

For students learning remotely at home, these challenges may include limited access to computers, high-speed internet, campus support services, and a lack of social connection with peers and instructors.

While you may not be able to solve every barrier to access, incorporating a few simple techniques into your teaching can help provide a more inclusive learning experience for all.

The three strategies outlined below draw from Universal Design for Learning principles, which emphasize:
●Providing learning materials in multiple formats and modalities that meet diverse learner needs and preferences.
● Providing opportunities for students to engage in reflective practice, make relevant connections to learning objectives, and collaborate with peers.
● Providing students with options for how they demonstrate their understanding of course objectives.


What makes students more likely to return to school in spring 2021?

Students still prefer in-person learning to online learning, and students who say they believe their instructor made an effort to understand their goals, interests, and challenges–and actively engage them in the learning experience–were likely to return to school in the spring 2021 term, according to a new survey.

The Top Hat Field Report: Higher Ed Students Grade the Fall 2020 Semester survey of 3,412 higher education students in the United States and Canada, was conducted by Top Hat and designed to uncover student sentiment about the online learning experience now that educators and institutions have had months to plan for the fall academic term.

The report shares insights on their experiences and highlights the challenges adjusting to online learning. It also sheds light on how different teaching practices, technology and tools, and connection with instructors and fellow students impacted their learning experience this fall.

Related content: Faculty approaching fall remote learning with uncertainty

“When we surveyed students in the spring, shortly after emergency campus closures driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, they told us that the emergency remote instruction they received left much to be desired,” said Nick Stein, CMO, Top Hat. “While they were understanding back then about the incredible challenges their schools and instructors were facing, they had much higher expectations about how their education would look in the fall. Thankfully, what our latest student survey shows is that many instructors are providing the more engaging, interactive and human experience students desperately need. Instead of replicating a ‘sage-on-the-stage’ lecturing model over Zoom, many educators are leaning in to active learning and creating community in their virtual classrooms. And we are also seeing that students are likely to continue their studies next term and beyond.”

“[This] second survey allows the higher ed community to gain valuable insights into the remote and hybrid student experiences that will mostly continue through the spring term,” said Phil Hill, partner at MindWires, LLC. “It is becoming more and more evident how important increased student engagement is and will be to enable student success during the pandemic.”

Students continue to give low grades to the online learning experience

Ahead of the fall 2020 academic term, institutions invested in technology, tools, and training for educators to provide high-quality online learning experiences. Yet many instructors expressed a lack of confidence in whether students would be successful this term–and students felt the same way.

Almost seven out of 10 (68 percent) students indicated they were not learning as effectively online as they would have in person. More than half (54 percent) expressed at least some concern about their ability to pass the current school term.

Despite months of planning by institutions for the fall academic term, students indicated many factors that contributed to their difficulties with adjusting to online learning. This included a lack of an engaging in-class experience (76 percent), lack of face-to-face interaction with faculty and students during class (75 percent), lack of reliable access to study spaces (48 percent), the need to balance coursework with caregiving responsibilities (39 percent), difficulty navigating or using online learning tools (38 percent), and difficulty accessing online learning materials (28 percent).


4 priorities for crisis management and communications

A college campus is an exciting place filled with hundreds, thousands—or even tens of thousands—of students seeking to better themselves through education, as well as faculty and campus employees. Aside from providing the facilities, faculty, and resources necessary for a high-quality education, the school also has a solemn obligation to ensure the safety of everyone on campus as well. It is essential to have tools and processes in place to effectively respond to incidents, communicate and collaborate efficiently, and account for all individuals throughout an event.

It is a matter of when, not if, a crisis event will occur. It is essential that school administrators invest the time and effort up front to understand risks and develop contingency plans to address potential scenarios. That includes anything and everything from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes, to building fires or hazardous materials spills, to active shooter situations. Schools need to do their research and invest in tools to help effectively manage and mitigate incidents.

Protecting students and faculty

Regardless of the scenario, the ability to quickly disseminate relevant information to everyone involved is essential. Campuses have to deal with an array of potential threats or events. Even something as innocuous as a power outage needs to be efficiently communicated to affected parties. If a school does not have the tools and processes in place to effectively manage crisis events, it can result in unnecessary property damage or loss and expose students and faculty to increased risk.


What’s the latest with online cheating and online proctoring?

With the move to virtual learning nearing its one-year mark, preventing online cheating and how to approach online proctoring have consistently been at the top of educators’ concerns.

And while COVID-19 isn’t the origin of online learning, it definitely forced many institutions to come up with plans to meet the virtual learning needs of students with vastly different priorities outside of school.

As learning moves online and physical campuses remain shut down (or reopen for all or some students and then shut down again as COVID cases increase), instructors must pinpoint how to navigate assessments and ensure academic integrity, honesty, and online security during online exams.

Online proctoring

Online proctoring isn’t anything new for all-online schools, but the approach is definitely “culture shock” for students who are not used to online learning.