Digital learning offices help faculty thrive in hybrid environments

Higher Ed is heading towards hybrid learning

Many schools already strengthened their digital learning opportunities before the pandemic. Online learning is now a staple, with 47 percent of employees anticipating learning will be primarily online for the foreseeable future, according to the Salesforce Connected Student Report.

This report also highlights the need for faculty support, with 40 percent of staff reporting difficulties in getting the technical support they need from their institutions when creating online courseware. Panelists who contributed to EDUCAUSE’s 2022 Horizon Report also said that professional development for distance and hybrid learning could have a major impact on learning outcomes.

Digital learning offices can help close the gap.

“Some are focused on faculty development, training digital skills and supporting faculty to use digital tools in their classrooms,” says Kathe Pelletier, director of teaching and learning at EDUCAUSE. “Others are more focused on the technical element – ​​sourcing the tools, making sure they are connected properly and that faculty has technical support – or they are responsible for the broader institutional strategy of what the digital learning technology stack looks like will be like.”

At UCF, Thompson’s office provides professional development to help educators make the most of the technology tools at their disposal, particularly to support remote and hybrid learning.

“We’re trying to provide a fundamental experience for the teachers who are going to be teaching online and blended courses,” he says. “Let’s start from the beginning: what would you like to give your students when they leave this course? We could refer to these as learning goals, learning outcomes, instructional goals. What advice would you like to give to your students?”

CONTINUE READING: Why Portland State University is committed to hybrid learning.

From there, Thompson’s team of experts helps faculty members align their goals with specific instructional technologies.

“It’s things like, you don’t put a 30-minute video online because the students’ attention spans don’t support it. You don’t have a mile-long scrolling website in the learning management system,” he says. “You have to break things down into their essential components and break them down in a way that grabs people’s attention.”

Hybrid Learning Professional Development puts technology first

At the University of Nevada, Reno, Ed Huffman, executive director of the Office of Digital Learning, uses a range of technology tools to help faculty up their game for digitally-enabled learning.

“The Canvas LMS is key. Its use benefits students and faculty as it helps ensure things like accessibility and making sure things are available to all students,” he says. “We support the use of the LMS by the faculty. It is a cloud service and all administration is done through my office.”

The office has also used its expertise to outfit classrooms to support distance and hybrid learning.

Get the checklist and see what questions you need to answer about your hybrid learning program.

“We use the ClearOne Chat 150 USB speakerphone on the podiums in all of our classrooms,” says Huffman. “That gives a range of 10 to 12 feet from the podium where the instructor can quietly wander the room and speak. We also use the ClearOne Unite 20 webcam.”

The office takes an enterprise-wide approach to IT management to maintain standards for technology use across the university. “We have site licenses for things like Camtasia, which some of our faculty will be using to create asynchronous lecture content. We also have a campus-wide Zoom license that people use for their synchronous correspondence courses, virtual consultation hours and other things,” he says.

It’s not just about promoting technical skills, but also about combining technology and education.

“We work with faculty to ensure the integration of technology is done in a pedagogically sound way,” says Huffman. “This includes the technology that is in place in the classrooms to enable face-to-face learning, as well as academic technologies such as the learning management system, web conferencing, plagiarism detection and online proctoring.”

The professional development of digital learning has several goals

Boston University’s new Shipley Center for Digital Learning and Innovation has two goals.

“One is to support faculty with digital multimedia and course design. We have digital learning media producers and designers who can help with that,” says Director Romy Ruukel. “We work closely with our Center for Teaching and Learning and our Educational Technology group to collectively support the professional development of the faculty. For example, when we do digital media production and digital design, we do it in collaboration with the faculty – how to integrate multimedia into the coursework – and we all learn in the process.”

“The second mission is no less important: to support pilot projects for novel educational technologies to improve the experience of BU students,” she says. For example, the center is piloting an AR/VR implementation and a technology platform used in language courses to increase student engagement.

As with many of these digital learning bureaus, the Shipley Center wants to ensure faculty have the skills they need to teach effectively using modern digital tools.

The goal “is to help BU stay relevant in the rapidly changing technology landscape of teaching and learning and improve the student experience in the residence,” says Ruukel.

FURTHER: How Community Colleges Set Best Practices for Hybrid Learning in Higher Education.

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