COVID-19 brought many challenges in 2020 and it continues to do so in 2021 with the Omicron variant.
The ramifications to higher education are immense and changing daily. If you work for an institution that has already canceled classes or moved to online learning, you are not alone. If you are a part of an institution that still hasn’t decided on how to tackle this, you aren’t alone either.
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There are a variety of things to think about when transitioning to distance learning. It may feel overwhelming and more of a “forced march,” but it helps to keep calm and break this down into manageable chunks.
Transitioning to distance learning during COVID doesn’t have to be complicated, especially during this time. Your first line of defense can be something as simple as a videoconference session. For a small class size, if you have existing infrastructure to support video conferencing, it has a low barrier to entry.
Even if you don’t have existing infrastructure, you can obtain a variety of free or low-cost video conferencing solutions for a short term solution. Cisco Webex conferencing services has a page of resources devoted specifically to education customers. Zoom videoconferencing also provides a link for their education customers. Google said last week it’s offering free access to its Hangouts Meet video conferencing service and all its G Suite and G Suite for Education collaboration platforms. Vendors realize what a challenge this has become and are being proactive in helping the learning community surmount this challenge.
Professional organizations in learning are also scrambling to provide help with this transition. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is offering “Ten Strategies for Online Learning During the Coronavirus Outbreak”.
Part of their suggestions when moving to online learning are:
- Break learning into smaller chunks.
- Be clear about expectations for online participation.
- Provide immediate (or at least frequent) feedback through online knowledge checks, comments on collaborative documents and chat to keep students motivated and moving forward.
- Include virtual meetings, live chats or video tutorials to maintain a human connection.
If you are fortunate to work for an institution that has instructional design staff who can assist with moving your classes to formal, distance learning modules, by all means, leverage them. But this solution takes some time, and the ability for institutions to ramp up a solution for distance learning during the pandemic may vary.
Inside Higher Ed recently published Planning for Coronavirus With Fewer Resources. This article raised a variety of “softer” issues that may raise their head during this time that is not simply “how do we teach and test online?”
Issues like students may not have access to tech or sufficient communication plans at home. How will students with disabilities fare in an online setting? Or how will we replicate a “high touch” environment for students (and staff) who are experiencing being remote for the first time? Chat solutions can go a long way in keeping everyone connected and learning, so we will need to master that.
The Inside Higher Ed article calls out things like potential food insecurity and lack of monetary resources may also factor into this outbreak, depending on how long this goes on.
In fact, the article states students’ needs might actually increase. Rebecca Anne Glazier, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock says, “I think students will have a harder time finishing the semester because these changes will be so disruptive.”
And let’s not forget teachers and administrators. Is your own home tech able to support you if you have to teach from home? What is your plan for coverage if you become ill?
Implementing online proctoring to help the shift to online testing
Even if you can teach successfully, how will you test successfully? Do you already use an online proctoring service? If so, leverage that. All proctored testing vendors are doing their best to install and ramp up schools all across the country that need access to these services.
Honorlock can help your institution quickly implement online proctoring during times of uncertainty. Click here to learn more.