The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way higher education institutions delivered instruction. They had to figure out how to add new technology, repurpose existing technology, and train instructors how to use those technologies to teach in a distance learning environment–all in a matter of days. The pandemic forced administrators and instructors to innovate, think in new ways and get out of their comfort zones, all in order to adapt to help students succeed in this new learning environment.
Now, as colleges and universities plan for 2021-22, some of the innovations borne out of the pandemic will stick. For example, Illinois State University, where I served as director of learning spaces and AV technology for the past 20 years, made the rapid switch to hybrid learning in 2020-21 and in the process realized this was an opportunity to re-imagine its offerings after the pandemic eased. We began the process of equipping all of our classrooms with technology to support distance learning in 2021-22–a bold move that can expand the university’s ability to serve students by providing options for those who can’t come to campus.
In 2021-22, the ability to adapt will continue to be of the utmost importance. Here are some lessons other can learn from on how ISU adapted to provide instruction in new ways.
Installing technology and training instructors
During the start of the pandemic, ISU’s instructors were encouraged to move as many classes online as possible. A small number did hybrid classes. From a technology standpoint, the biggest challenge was the amount of equipment that had to be installed. ISU has more than 21,000 students with six different colleges and 35 departments. The campus includes 188 buildings and facilities and 360 classrooms. We literally had a few days warning to switch modalities. The technology team had to get all the gear and train everyone how to use it. ISU installed Epson document cameras in 300 classrooms and also installed tracking cameras in 45 rooms. The tracking cameras follow the instructor’s movements as they walk around the room, so if they want to go over and write on the white board the camera pivots to track them.
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