Teachers have learned a lot this year, including the power of virtual communities to meet students' needs

How virtual communities can amplify traditional learning

Teachers have learned a lot this year, including the power of virtual communities to meet students' needs

Our country learned a lot in 2020, when the pandemic brought sudden, fundamental changes to the way we live, work, and go to school. Teachers learned new lessons as we taught classes, and one of the most enduring lessons for us was that traditional video conferencing programs are a poor substitute for the in-person experience.

Holding class on Zoom or GoToMeeting feels more like broadcasting than teaching, as educators essentially deliver monologues to a semi-engaged audience. There is no personalization, no flexibility and little collaboration. Most importantly, there is no sense of community that often forms in the classroom.

Getting back to in-person teaching this fall will be gratifying, but it will feel different after the year we just lived through. Because as many teachers were dreading videoconferencing in 2020, many were also grasping the potential for new technologies to amplify and enhance the learning experience.

We are the teachers who want to see new technology platforms combined with on-site learning to make education more effective.

Even as we happily say goodbye to Microsoft Teams and Zoom (which may work wonderfully well for the business world, but not for teaching), teachers want to embrace new technologies. Here are the most important ways technology can be applied to higher education to make learning more social, flexible, and meaningful:

Virtual office hours

If you talk to teachers about the year that was, you will hear a litany of complaints. But one thing no one complains about is the virtualization of the professor-student one-on-one interaction, otherwise known as virtual office hours. In normal times, office hours can be hectic and lonely for a professor. Many use it as a time to catch up on grading or other work. Students have their reasons for not showing up, whether it’s privacy in shared office spaces or the inconvenience of walking across campus to wait in line with other students to see the professor.

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