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NewsApr 14, 2020

Turning Challenge Into Opportunity: Education in the Coronavirus Age

Shawnasty Bankovich

The COVID-19 pandemic has been sweeping the world by storm—leaving a multitude of closures in its path as America does its part to flatten the curve. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that schools remain closed for at least eight weeks, and as of April 7, 13 states have closed schools through the end of the academic year with many others expected to follow. Countless universities are opting for virtual commencements or canceling spring ceremonies altogether. This disruption is likely to leave a lasting impact on education long after the pandemic subsides. In this blog post, I’ll explore how the current crisis creates both unique challenges and potential opportunities in education. I will also provide tips for students and educators navigating this challenging season.

the future of education

The barrier to enter the online education space is drastically declining as instructors are now forced to increase content that can be accessed exclusively online. Due to the pandemic, educators now have hands-on experience with educating solely online: assignment creation and distribution, grading, class participation, and exam proctoring all using digital mediums. Universities can leverage this shift to expand online offerings in the future, well after the pandemic subsides.

As universities consider expanding online offerings, there are two main styles of online education they can explore: traditional and massive online open courses (MOOCs).

  • Traditional online courses are often delivered as live-stream lectures at a specific time. The traditional online model requires the same constant level of effort for an instructor as a traditional in-person course but at a lower cost structure for students. The advantage here is that professors have little change from the traditional teaching formats, but are constrained by the time and specificity of a semester.

  • MOOCs typically have content divided specifically by topics, unlike traditional courses that are constrained to deliver content fitting in a certain time period. MOOC content is pre-recorded to view at any time. Since this content is pre-recorded and modular, most of the content can be reused from semester to semester. An investment in quality MOOC lectures and assignments can greatly reduce the amount of future time required by the instructor as additional activities such as office hours and grading can be easily handled by teaching assistants. The reduced recurring cost associated with MOOCs makes them a top-notch, affordable alternative to in-person education, especially for a non-traditional student with commitments that may interfere with typical scheduled lectures.

These affordable varieties of higher education could increase enrollment rates as the workforce retools themselves in this period of economic downturn. Though the future of online education looks stronger than ever, the current unexpected shift to online learning can feel overwhelming to both educators and students alike.

for students

When I began my journey into online education, I was beyond overwhelmed. I had taken three online classes and was about to start a master’s program where I would likely never come face-to-face with instructors or fellow students. Almost two years later, I have learned more than I ever could have imagined, made lasting connections with instructors and classmates, and am on track to complete my degree this fall. What once felt so far from reach now feels very attainable thanks to great educators, well designed courses, and a few lessons I have learned along the way.

Here are some important discoveries I have learned through my online education.

  • Keep your good habits. Commit to maintain a daily schedule, keeping the same time blocks you would in a traditional education environment. Continue to attend classes at their scheduled times. Separate time for studying from socializing. Refrain from temptations like your phone or browsing the internet during class and study time.

  • Invest in communication. Emails and allocated online forums are popular ways to interact with classmates and instructors, but I would recommend seeking out other mediums of communication that may exist for a class (i.e., Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.).

  • Make yourself a space. Try to set aside a space that is designated for schoolwork. Make this a place you feel comfortable and productive.

  • Celebrate success. Working apart from your classmates can make it feel unnatural to celebrate victories. Intentionally schedule time to celebrate your success.

for educators

An educator can make or break an online course. Here are some suggestions on how to learn from best practices and maximize your students’ experience.

  • Read about best practices. David Joyner is one of the top online educators and the model online professor (from my first-hand experience). His passion is leveraging technologies for student learning. In his recent blog series, Dr. Joyner gives an emergency guide to remote teaching.

  • Establish regular communication. Find a frequency, medium, and template that works for you. Through helpful teacher assistants, I have found that sending a weekly communication broken into regular categories (what to complete this week, looking ahead to next week, general announcements, etc.) works best.

  • Create reusable content. Record your lectures, no matter if they are traditional or MOOC style. Make quality assignments that transfer well to an online platform and save them for future use.

  • Know when to ask for help. There are thousands of years of historical tradition in education. Digital transformation to change that tradition will be challenging, but there are experts who can help. Credera is proven in solving tough problems, including digital transformation and innovation, evaluating existing solutions and technologies, conducting market research, and following through on implementation and adoption.

for everyone

Distance learning has grown to 16.3% of collegiate higher education, with consistent growth year over year. There are currently over 3.2 million students pursuing a higher education degree exclusively online. COVID-19 is now forcing all education online for the foreseeable future. This will certainly serve as a catalyst for growth in online learning.

Creating an environment for online learning to flourish will be one of the greatest challenges in adapting to the online learning boom. At Credera, we help our clients transform offerings to drive innovation, speed, user experience, and customer-centricity. We work alongside clients to identify and implement winning strategies, aligning resources and technology to fulfill their overall vision and mission. We’d love to help your organization as you navigate these disruptive times. Reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com.