Practically overnight, colleges and universities were tasked with shifting to online learning and supporting teachers with the resources and tools to do so successfully. As educators and students navigate the new higher education landscape, administrators and university leadership are grappling with how to sustain distance learning into the fall and beyond.
We sat down with Jefferson Flanders, CEO of MindEdge Learning, a leader in online learning solutions and InkHouse client, to discuss how online learning has changed in recent months and what higher educators can expect this fall.
Due to the pandemic, many more students have been exposed to online classes and remote learning tools. While students transitioned to remote courses, video conferencing is just the tip of the iceberg for effective online learning. Flanders shares that the real value of online learning can be seen in a variety of games, videos, exercises and other engaging tools that create a more satisfying and enriching learning experience. Often this involves expanded student resources and guided courses that are designed for online learners.
However, adoption and technology challenges with video conferencing are inherently leaving parents, students and instructors frustrated. Instead educators must consider how to best leverage online learning, while acknowledging its limitations. “The pioneer online schools, like Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University, understand how to support online learning with high-touch mentoring and instruction,” Flanders explains. “They recognize the strengths of online, including flexibility, learner accessibility and self-paced learning, and its limitations. Institutions of higher education would be well-served to emulate aspects of what WGU and SNHU do.”
From universities to community colleges, Flanders shares that, “higher education faces a crisis this fall.”
As virtual learning poses a challenge for both parents and students, many schools are announcing a physical return to campus this fall. Yet, Flanders warns that “higher education administrators should be thinking about how to transition to more online learning if we get a second wave of coronavirus with cooler weather.”
Flanders also says that while the online learning market is likely to accelerate due to an increase in demand, “there are troubling signs of financial distress among smaller schools, and the higher ed landscape may change dramatically in the next two years, or until there is an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.”
The education practice at InkHouse is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on universities and the ed tech community, and will continue to produce content on our blog, social channels and newsletter with insights.