Luke joined The Skills Network in May 2018. For the two and a half years prior, Luke worked as an independent consultant providing specialist advice and support to a variety of colleges and training providers. Before this Luke worked for several highly regarded FE colleges and universities, where he developed an impressive track record in senior management roles.
The impact of the pandemic has been particularly felt by those within the education sector, with both educators and learners alike having to quickly adopt new ways of teaching remotely and training online. Many universities have had to change the way they operate, but with life starting to return to normal, an international education report claimed UK universities needed to deliver face-to-face learning if they’re to continue charging some of the highest fees in the world.
With increased access to sophisticated technology, data and artificial intelligence, online learning providers are in the position to truly deliver the best digital learning and teaching experiences and that shouldn’t be stopped altogether. Instead, universities should encourage a blended learning experience, providing a mix of remote and face-to-face learning. Here’s why:
It’s more than just Zoom
While online learning has been accelerated in the last year, interest in technology-based learning was growing exponentially before the pandemic. Learning can now happen anytime, anywhere – removing barriers such as location, time of learning, and even speed of training. Schools, colleges and universities can now take advantage of digital resources which have taken years to develop, and support learning as they wish.
However, many still say that that there is little to no interaction with online learning – this couldn’t be further away from the truth. Teaching is so much more than a Zoom call, or uploading countless documents to a platform. Lecturers need to deliver much more than that, from responding to questions, grading assessments, giving feedback and providing one-to-one support for students – and this is exactly where the blended approaches come in.
As the role of technology increases within universities, online strategies to support teacher development and ensure all the correct training for them is provided, should become priority first and foremost. An important part of this strategy will be to partner with trusted companies and training providers who have tried and tested systems, as well as content that can be tailored towards each student and teacher’s needs.
Offers flexibility designed to get the most productivity
In a successful online learning space, students should have clarity on what they will be able to learn during the online lesson, and how this will be consolidated at the end of their lesson and course. Teachers have to ensure that their students are taking the curriculum on board. As with an in-person lesson, that can be discovered through regular testing and homework assignments. However, in order to learn effectively, students may have different requirements.
It’s not surprising that people are most productive at different times of the day depending on their personality, lifestyle or routine, but yet pre-pandemic, young adults scheduled their learning based on the working day. Now, with the growth of online learning, students have the flexibility to learn during the times that are most beneficial for them, helping them retain the information and use it successfully, not only passing exams or assessments, but remembering it later, too.
Allows for tailoring a student’s online learning journey
With the rise of online learning comes the increase of data which teachers can analyse to determine how well students are progressing, therefore giving them the tools to develop teaching strategies going forward. This data can be sourced to record student attendance, to monitor how often each student contributes within online chatrooms and discussions and to check whether they are submitting work on time. Having access to this data should allow teachers to understand the support required by each individual student.
As the frequency of online lessons increase, inevitably so does the record of data, allowing teachers and heads of departments to have a deeper understanding into not just student, but teacher performance too, and how to address areas of improvement. This level of understanding should consequently allow teachers to prove that they have developed both strengths and weaknesses identified from the data.
The development of innovative tools such as the diagnostic tool, created by The Skills Network benefits learners by saving their time and enriching their education by highlighting the key areas that each person will need to dedicate more time towards in their modules. This course specific ‘diagnostic assessment’ helps providers to develop a personalised curriculum plan that designs a learner’s educational journey around their individual needs, gaps and learning preferences. Meaning every learner has a truly individual experience, even at scale.
The Skills Network is developing the use of predictive analytics, which will explore a range of predictive markers, such as previous highest-level qualifications achieved, to indicate individual learner success before commencing training.
Online learning doesn’t just bring an increase of data, but it also adds a bolster of benefits to universities. From being able to accommodate more international students resulting in additional money and funding along with being able to cater the curriculum to a more global audience across different time zones.
It allows universities to upskill their teachers
The rise in online learning and transition into remote teaching should not hinder the development and growth of teachers if they receive efficient training, and high-quality online learning is embedded into the curriculum.
With the correct training processes in place, teachers will be able to acquire both the mindset and skillset to teach and facilitate online learning. If teachers can commit to training and studying online, matching the experiences they are offering to their students, they will then be able to develop a deeper understanding of the skills required for online learning and development.
Moreover, universities need to prioritise the acquisition and provision of well-designed e-Learning resources. Content should be organised in a way that supports the teacher to clearly understand how students can acquire new skills and knowledge. Through the appropriate training and e-Learning resources which present learning in an accessible and user-friendly way, teachers can adapt methods and enhance their skills in the delivery of online lessons.
Overall, universities providing a blended learning approach allows both teachers and students to develop and level-up in their chosen subjects and in others too, while experiencing a more tailored, approach to their own education.