Some ideas on how universities can improve learning experiences for remote students and make studies more engaging for those attending lectures virtually.
Like most of us, university students have had their usual way of doing things turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some students are working remotely from their accommodation, while others have opted to stay at home rather than be left isolated in their university town.
The advice on what to do varies between institutions, but many students have been told to stay in their current residence – often halls of residence or student housing – while attending only online lectures and seminars.
Universities have had to adapt to make all of their teaching online learning, which means students are inevitably missing out on the face-to-face feedback and interaction, multi-sensory learning experiences and immediate help and support that they would usually get from classroom learning.
While unis can’t welcome their students on campus for lectures and other learning, there are plenty of things they can be doing to replicate the way they usually do things as closely as possible. There’s no reason why learning experiences for remote students can’t be rewarding and, in some ways, better than classroom learning.
Again, things vary between universities. For those that didn’t already have an enterprise-level, scalable learning management system in place to deliver and manage online learning, one really should be in place by now.
An LMS serves multiple purposes for a university:
- A hub for delivery and management of all learning.
- A single place for students to access an otherwise onerous amount of courses, modules, videos, files and other information.
- Automating enrolment, course sign-up and seminar bookings.
- A reporting system for lecturers to monitor students’ attendance, performance and engagement.
- A communication platform.
Specialist video conferencing
The basics of communicating with students for lectures and seminars can be accomplished with any video conferencing software, but when your students are paying thousands of pounds for the privilege of joining it makes sense to go above and beyond what you would use for the family quiz and putting in place something that’s designed to do exactly what you need it to do.
Something like Big Blue Button, which was designed specifically for education and can be fully integrated within an LMS, fits the bill. With live multi-user whiteboard functionality, unlimited webcam users, breakout rooms, moderator controls and flexibility over whose video and microphones are on or off, it gives the flexibility to deliver a variety of different types of learning.
Smart seminar management
BigBlueButton can handle the practicalities of seminar delivery, but what about the associated administrative and management tasks?
The Totara Learn 13 LMS reduces those tasks to a minimum. Its enhanced seminar management features include session-level attendance tracking, plus support for multiple rooms and facilitators within each session. So even a large lecture can instantly breakout into several seminar rooms, each with one or more facilitators, and you’ll instantly know which students were in attendance.
Without face-to-face interaction and conspicuously empty seats, there is a greater risk of students falling through the cracks and heading down a slippery slope towards failing or dropping out. A powerful reporting system, like those found within Moodle LMS and Totara Learn, will help lecturers to monitor students more closely and intervene when needed.
Having no in-person lectures has its downsides, but one of the advantages is the possibility to embrace the move towards technology by adding something that will be familiar to most students: gamification. Badges, awards and leaderboards are just a few of the ways in which you can add a friendly competitiveness to engaging with learning.
With students now submitting all of their work online, that soon starts amounting to a very large number of very large files. The ‘M’ for management in LMS means an LMS is well suited to helping you stay on top of student submissions. For example, we worked with Trinity College London to help them manage the influx of large video files submitted by its music students.
If you’d like to chat about improving the learning experiences of students forced to attend lectures remotely, feel free to fill out the form below.
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