Over the last week, a large number of institutions in the US and abroad, including Harvard and Princeton Universities in the United States, the Imperial College of London, and the University of Toronto, have shifted to virtual education for the remainder of the fall term. Cornell University has moved its final exams online and canceled its ceremony for fall graduates. It now seems “going back to campus” is no longer a viable option in many cases.
The time is now for forward looking academic institutions to invest in online learning platforms that give them the flexibility to seamlessly shift between synchronous, asynchronous, in-person, online, and hybrid modalities.
While it’s easy to think about this in a purely COVID context considering recent shutdowns, and concerns about disease transmission from in-person classes, universities need the flexibility to adjust how classes are conducted without worrying about negatively impacting the meaningful social interactions and human connections that increase engagement and learning outcomes.
And even in the absence of a pandemic, natural disaster, or other disruption, educators need new tools to power a true transformation towards a more flexible and inclusive environment.
While the Omicron variant is bringing back painful memories of March 2020, a lot has been learned over the last 18 months and higher education institutions and many educators have embraced various technologies to create a seamless, educational experience.
But there are other ways to provide and enable purposeful peer-to-peer interactions, vibrant learning communities, and engaging experiences that effectively prepare students for their professional futures. This is now possible with innovative learning environments like Engageli.
Institutions and educators need the tools that enable better decisions as they support their student’s learning journeys. In this era of uncertainty, an effective learning environment should allow a dynamic and flexible setup that fully supports all learning modalities, as an ongoing, comprehensive, and reliable solution.
As mentioned in an Educause article co-authored by Andreina Bloom Parisi-Amon, Ph.D. and Stanford University Associate Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus Serge Plotkin, Ph.D. "This is a once-in-a-generation chance for colleges and universities to reimagine the learning experience by implementing digital tools to enhance, enable, and enrich connections across distance and time and to make learning more accessible and equitable."
In our conversations with leading universities and colleges across the globe, there are very clear common challenges across countries and continents. Academic leadership everywhere is invested in enhancing student engagement. This is not always an easy challenge, especially considering some of the practices that became common during the pandemic. But the truth is, advanced technology can make online learning even better than in-person.
Data-rich environments like Engageli, allow educators to see exactly where their students are and how to best support them. They can see who is active, gauge a student’s level of understanding, and determine who needs extra help. They can create intentional teams that optimize for students’ progress, group mentors and mentees together, or facilitate rich and diverse conversations for peer learning with the click of a button.
Students can take meaningful notes that are integrated into their learning environment and linked to class recordings and content. Shy students or those who usually don’t participate in the in-person classroom can now easily interact, engage, and participate without feeling exposed or vulnerable through interactive polls, chat, Q&A, collaborative documents, whiteboards, and seamless content sharing options. Students can also naturally interact with their peers without disrupting the class flow with Engageli’s unique table groups. Just like in an in-person classroom, students can ask each other questions or get to know each other as they “sit together” around a virtual table.
Engageli’s toolbox is especially appreciated in business schools, as the need for dynamic case-based learning and active participation is a core focus for these institutions. Zoltan Antal-Mokos, Professor of Strategy at ESMT Berlin, shared his experience teaching on Engageli:
“Engaging and discussing complex case studies just happens naturally with Engageli. My students love the table arrangements. My personal favorite is the polls. Engageli is not a meeting app used for teaching but a purpose-built system to facilitate learning.”
The time to create a student-centered educational technology ecosystem is now. The search for digital tools to support and enhance student engagement in learning is critical, as further emphasized by the pandemic. Universities that have embraced this approach, such as Coventry University, are already seeing the value and advantage as they plan their strategy for the future. Educators and learners can come together to create the classrooms of the future. Intentional technology should serve the human purpose and enhance learning outcomes.
So, instead of looking back, let’s move forward and reimagine learning.