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Covid-19 has shown universities there is no time to wait. They need an online teaching strategy, now and for the future.
Switching from in-person to online teaching is not just a one-time transition. Pivoting from on-campus to digital and back again may be increasingly necessary due to unforeseen events in our disrupted world.
However, online teaching is more than a precaution. It is also a way to unlock new revenue streams.
Online teaching is a smart investment
An innovative digital learning strategy will give your university a competitive advantage by attracting a wider array of prospective students.
The more disruption we face, the more people need new skills to adapt. Those with family or professional obligations who cannot fully commit to campus-based courses are a prime target for online learning. If universities adopt agile teaching methods, they can capture whole new student populations. This can be a winning strategy at a time when institutions need new revenue streams.
Build on experience
Distance learning has been around for years. A Times Higher Education report reveals the “wisdom gained by business schools from decades of experience in offering distance and digital learning to students”.
Faculty from Fuqua School of Business, Duke University (US), Audencia Business School (France), and Heriot-Watt University (UK) share what techniques have proven effective in practice. Consider the following approaches.
Adopt a university-wide strategy
Online teaching cannot rely only on individual faculty’s efforts. University-wide systems should be put in place for instructor training, knowledge sharing, and support. Further, learning design standards should be adopted so that courses are more interactive and use digital tools to engage students.
A better online teaching strategy does not require a significant outlay of resources or high-end technology. Successful strategies may be already in place in your university’s business school or other forward-thinking departments. Implementing those strategies at the university level can increase student satisfaction and ultimately help recruit new student populations.
Leverage peer learning to boost motivation
Many students whose courses moved online due to the Coronavirus have found this mode of instruction ineffective. But there are ways to recreate the benefits of classroom teaching online. The key is to connect students to faculty and to each other.
To keep students on track, content delivery should be supplemented with exercises in smaller groups, as well as individual feedback – for example during online office hours. Instructors can actively encourage students to take part and monitor engagement. A sense of personal connection boosts motivation.
The business school experts interviewed by Times Higher Education also recommend instituting a mentoring system for faculty. Experienced instructors can coach colleagues in need of support in online pedagogy.
Anticipate disruptions in online teaching
The connection cuts off and the whole class waits on standby for the instructor to reappear. “That’s the academic equivalent of a live-TV mishap,” according to Professor Robert MacIntosh of Heriot-Watt University.
This dreaded moment is bound to happen. In digital learning, disruption is part of the process. Universities should implement course design principles that take this into account and ensure solutions are built in from the start. For example, instructors can pre-record video segments with the main takeaways from a lesson. If live teaching is interrupted, students can turn to these instead.
Rather than expecting instructors to replicate their lectures on Zoom, universities should proactively train them in digital best practices. Eliminating the most common issues can streamline the learning process and increase student satisfaction.
Online teaching can tap new audiences for universities. But for long-term success, they need to move from ad-hoc crisis solutions to a strategic approach. Use the momentum created by the coronavirus lockdown and build on the strengths of existing online learning programmes.
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