Though fall 2020 holds uncertainty for campuses across the globe, technology plays a key role in ensuring that teaching and learning can continue with leveraging tech

Leveraging tech to adapt to the new normal

Though fall 2020 holds uncertainty for campuses across the globe, technology plays a key role in ensuring that teaching and learning can continue

This story on leveraging tech as education moves forward during COVID, originally published on June 11, was eCN’s No. 10 most popular story of 2020. Check back each day for the next story in our countdown.

After months of being closed due to mandatory isolation measures, colleges across the world prepare to welcome students to campus once again as fall semester approaches.

However, the virus has not yet been defeated, and this comes with considerable risk for universities entering the new normal–especially as there is a chance of a resurgence of COVID-19 at the end of the fall.

Related content: Online proctoring with trust, transparency, and fairness

As a result, universities are exploring a variety of new processes to support admissions, course delivery, and examination in order to minimize risk. Technology will play a key role in how colleges deliver their courses in the months ahead.

Here’s how universities can leverage technological solutions to adapt to these new circumstances while maintaining efficiency and improving student experience.

Take the admissions process 100 percent online

The worst of the pandemic might have passed, but universities must still take precautions and minimize unnecessary social contact during the admissions process. By allowing applicants to complete assessments and interviews online, colleges can minimize health risks by reducing the number of people on campus.

In addition, taking the application process online gives colleges access to a wider talent pool that might not have previously applied due to geographical restrictions. This is vital for universities as they face a reduction in applicants due to the financial hit of the virus.

Automating the admissions process also makes it possible to to process and interview more students. Applicants can complete pre-recorded video interviews and submit their answers without requiring an interviewee to be present, saving the time of the university admissions staff, while students can record their interview as and when it suits them. By using an online admissions platform, the team at Eastern Washington University was able to process and complete four times more interviews in a day than they usually would.

Build out your elearning infrastructure

In order to uphold safety protocols, many universities will be offering courses completely online in replacement of or as an alternative to in-person classes. The California State University System announced that its 23 campuses will be delivering material mostly online this fall, while the UK’s University of Cambridge announced that all in-person lectures will be cancelled throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

However, delivering content online often isn’t as straightforward as simply presenting the lecture slides within Google Hangouts or Zoom. Educators must find new ways to engage students and facilitate peer-to-peer interaction if they are to provide an experience that matches up to the physical one.

By leveraging elearning platforms that are specifically tailored to teaching, professors can boost performance and create an environment that retains students’ interest in the material. For example, Top Hat lets teachers build an active learning classroom and Kahoot allows educators to create engaging gaming experiences and is currently free for schools affected by the virus. And with Quizlet, teachers can create online flashcards and learning tools and track the performance of their students.

Going one step further and integrating data analytics into its online processes, Singapore Management University has been able to monitor virtual learning in the absence of an in-person scenario where lecturers can visually see the attention span of students. Professors are able to fine-tune their teaching and assessment methods based on the data that the elearning system collects on students’ quiz scores, the time students spent on each activity, and where they needed help.

While much of the physical learning experience may be lost when transferred to an online environment, there are clearly other newfound benefits to going online. By gaining access to metrics on student activity and performance as a result of elearning, university educators can make better, more data-driven decisions around how they deliver course content.

Introduce remote exam proctoring

Just as bringing groups of students together in classrooms still holds considerable risk, the same goes for testing students en-masse in exam halls. With online remote exam proctoring tools that leverage AI, universities can ensure that students are still able to take their exams in a fair and convenient manner.

These tools integrate technologies such as facial recognition and sound detection to maintain integrity, and many of them don’t allow students to open other tabs or copy and paste text during the exam. Automated proctoring that doesn’t require the need for another human to monitor the student is scalable and can be done at any time, giving more convenience to both students and staff. Many universities are already exploring this opportunity to maintain exam scheduling amidst the pandemic: The 2020 LSAT India entrance exam will be held online and remotely proctored by an AI-powered solution.

While the appeal of the traditional university experience has always gone beyond simply learning the course material, the demands of applicants are shifting towards the digital capabilities of schools and how they are able to adapt to the new normal. By taking fundamental aspects of the university experience – admissions, class-based learning, and exams – online, colleges appear tech-savvy in the eyes of candidates and build a modern brand image.

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