Long before 2020, digital transformation was well underway across many industries, with organizations developing long-term strategies for adopting and advancing new technologies to further advance their business goals and individual missions. Unfortunately, most of these timelines were drastically shortened, especially for the education community, who was faced with the rapid rise of online learning and a significant change in the teaching-learning process. While there are certainly challenges to adopting new technology and integrating digital learning experiences into an established curriculum, there also lie incredible opportunities for teaching and learning enrichment.
Reimagining Learning Spaces
Creating an innovative learning environment that supports both academic and social engagement has a profound impact on teacher and learner success. Learning spaces are an important element of a holistic education strategy and have an instrumental role in the way students gain and retain information. For an institution looking to refine or reinvent their learning space, Edge will conduct a walkthrough to evaluate a current space and ask questions to help determine the area’s needs and purpose. With this information, a team of experts in learning space design will create a customized report of recommendations based on industry standards and the individual goals and budget of the organization. Through the EdgeMarket program, (Te)chnology (C)atalog for (H)ardware & (S)oftware, or TeCHS, a member institution can benefit from consortium pricing and gain access to recommended vendors and technology solutions through an easy, streamlined procurement process.
As the last year has proven, flexibility is essential and has spotlighted the importance of technology integration in learning spaces going forward. Classrooms will need to determine how to best utilize virtual capabilities and the hybrid learning model to create an array of active learning experiences that engage and excite both teachers and students.
Improving the Online Learning Experience
This past year quickly revealed the strengths and weaknesses of current online education. Many institutions were pushed to reevaluate their digital learning strategy, not only for the short term, but how online instruction would fit into the bigger picture going forward. Quality instructional design is the key to engaging learners and helping them gain the knowledge that they need to achieve the learning goals of each course.
National standards for online education and instructional design act as the benchmark for virtual programs and provide a framework for schools, districts, and state agencies to improve their online teaching and learning. An effective online pedagogy emphasizes student-centered learning and employs active learning activities. Edge can help institutions evaluate their curriculum against these standards to ensure the courses being offered are providing a quality learning experience, and if needed, build more innovative and engaging activities to incorporate into their learning management system (LMS). Using an EdTech platform with a responsive design and well-organized modules, instructors and students can focus on teaching and learning, instead of spending time trying to navigate and understand the online system.
As institutions hurried to meet the needs of remote learners and educators amid the pandemic, many had to return to a back-to-basics approach for simplifying the look of their LMS and way the system worked. The focus was to provide continuity in education, creating a virtual classroom where students can interact with their teachers and participate in learning activities. The most successful LMS solutions provide the easiest learning curve for users and have a robust set of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), Application Programming Interface (API), and other educational technology tools to create a plug-and-play simplicity.
Enhancing Professional Development
Professional development has always been an important element of helping instructors acquire new skills and gain the knowledge they need to effectively tackle students’ learning challenges and become better-rounded educators. A recent Harvard Business Review article, “The Future of Leadership Development,” explores the emergence of the “personal learning cloud” (PLC) in helping to close the gaps in traditional executive education. The PLC has four important characteristics: personalized, socialized, contextualized, and managed. The mix of online courses, learning tools, and social platforms not only can help enhance needed skills and map internal professional development, but allow instructors to build a network and showcase their skills in a public forum.
This approach to professional development can be extended to students as well, where learners build their own PLC to create a portfolio of their skills, credentials, and accomplishments. When an employer is looking to fill a specific role, they can access an inventory of PLCs and filter the list to focus on the desired interdisciplinary and interdepartmental skillset. Professional networking platforms, like LinkedIn, are similar to a large system of PLCs and allow users to build a professional identity by connecting and collaborating with others. The hard and soft skills needed to succeed today are not necessarily the same of those required in the past. As the education community continues to move forward, especially in the digital space, organizations will need to find innovative ways to support the skill development of their teachers and students.
Providing Affordable Access to Education
The digitalization of the learning experience has been underway for decades, but has become more mainstream in recent years as a record number of people are spending time interacting, learning, and engaging online. In this day and age, every learning methodology includes some digital aspect and the more an institution can tap into these capabilities, the easier they can keep the attention of their students. Interactive lessons and games, dynamic multimedia materials, and collaborative forums all help inspire learners to think and explore.
One of the most significant benefits of digital transformation seen in curriculum development and online pedagogy is the ability of institutions to lower the cost of education and extend their reach to more students in the community. Along with LMS tools, open educational resources (OER) expand access to learning and help enhance regular course content. Unlike standard resources, like textbooks, OERs can be updated quickly or adapted to an instructor’s goals or preference, removing many of the constrictions that once existed in course development.
Helping Advance Online Learning
As much as the pandemic has turned the focus to online education as a stopgap solution, the past year has also strengthened many people’s belief that the current approach to digital learning is subpar. This is often due to an organization’s lack of support, lack of investment, or lack of strategy. Online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face instruction and can offer benefits that exceed in-person education, but significant development time is necessary to create a comprehensive and successful program. Students will never take online instruction seriously if the faculty and administration at their institution do not believe in the value and advantages of digital learning.
As online education becomes more of a necessity, organizations will be required to keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of everyone in the education space. Thankfully, institutions have faced similar challenges over the past year and can help each other navigate the road ahead. By gaining insight from other organizations, educators, and industry experts, an institution can strengthen their position as an online educator and create a scalable strategy that will adapt as the needs of their organization—and the world—continue to evolve.
Need help creating a personalized and powerful online learning experience? Tap into Edge’s suite of tools and technology solutions to digitally transform your organization.
We invite you to explore our vast array of best-in-class technology solutions at njedge.net/solutions-overview.