The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the landscape of many aspects of life. Still, one of the most noticeable paradigms is the shift in the way education must face the challenges of teaching and engaging students. For higher education, getting it right could mean the difference between staying open or closing doors forever.
A podcast panel of experts came together for some straight talk on the situation, sharing experiences solving these challenges during the pandemic and the solutions that have been instituted to get through these uncertain times and better prepare their institutions for the months to come as the pandemic subsides.
Mike Berger, IT Manager of Classroom Technology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Jodon Bellofatto, Technology-Enhanced Spaces Lead Analyst at the University of California, Merced, led the discussion from the higher ed side.
Mark Knox, Vertical Solutions Sale Consultant for Sharp NEC Display Solutions, and Brad Thomas, Director for the Product Solutions Group at Diversified, joined in with context and understanding of the technologies aiding higher education with these efforts.
For Berger, the biggest challenge was in getting equipment. There was a convergence of all education players trying to get technology equipment in large quantities simultaneously. Bellofatto agreed.
“Trying to find ways to put together equipment packages for faculty where they could provide as much of a rich experience for their students attending remotely, from the comfort of their home, [as possible]” Bellofatto said. “That became really challenging in the arts, for like dance classes and performance classes; trying to find technology that was good enough to do what they needed to do, but easy enough for someone to do on their own.”
As these equipment challenges eventually sorted themselves out and both educators and students learned to adapt to a remote and then hybrid learning environment, Thomas said he saw many positive trends resulting from the changes.
“There’s more engagement with professional development, with instructional design, with the technology coming in from IT, and with the communication structure around that,” Thomas said.
Now that every university has an online component, the real question, Knox said, is value. Students want to ensure they are getting value for their tuition. That value may be easier to recognize in an in-person, on-campus situation.
“We’re trying to use technology to communicate the value and to justify the value of a lot of our institutions,” Knox said.
And, while this was difficult for institutions at the start of the pandemic when everyone was scrambling for technology, they must now strategize on ways to bring the best technology experience to their students.
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