How has the shift to remote learning affected students’ ability to learn and adapt in this new higher education environment? 



Over the past year, schools have been abruptly thrust into the world of virtual, remote learning. This posed challenges in adapting to the differences in online learning compared to in-person classes. With college and university classes usually having a large number of students per class, the transition must be thought-out and designed to be conducive for different students and their learning styles. 


This poses the question: Is remote learning effective in higher education? Several challenges can make remote learning less effective, such as lack of knowledge about operating remote learning systems; absence of engagement between students, their peers, and teachers; and having to learn how to utilize technology to suit multiple learning styles. 


Identifying the needs of students in the remote learning environment is essential for a successful remote learning program. Every student is different and remote learning makes it more challenging to connect with them if systems are not in place to create accountability and engagement. Meeting these fundamental needs will propel your institution’s remote learning effectiveness forward. 



1. Educate students and teachers on how to use online learning systems 


Due to COVID-19, many schools have been forced to transition to online learning rather suddenly without time to learn how to use the new learning systems and be able to implement best practices for teaching online. Because of these challenges, teachers have faced challenges in lacking the knowledge to smoothly transition to effectively meet the needs of students in a different setting. 


One of the ways teachers can equip themselves for teaching online is first to understand the tools needed to jump-start a virtual classroom. This not only saves time in the long run, but it helps teachers utilize all the different tools and features the systems offer. Once the right tools are acquired, it will make the next steps a bit smoother. Even though virtual learning will be quite different from in-person classes, students can still effectively learn if their needs are identified and met


2. Implement an interactive classroom 


Many schools have chosen to use tools such as Zoom to conduct live classes and Canvas to manage course assignments. An interactive classroom can help solve the engagement problem by having students interact through a chat box or participate through video if necessary. Canvas contributes to the accountability of class by organizing assignments and keeping them in one easily accessible place. 


3. Get creative with approaches to learning 


Learning doesn’t have to look the same as it always has. With technology, there are many ways teachers can engage different learning styles and appeal to different types of learners. There are auditory, visual, verbal, and kinesthetic learners who each intake information differently. 


Zoom chat is an option, but teachers can also send out mini-quizzes during class to see if students were paying attention. Online discussion boards are a popular option as well. But what if teachers used the same creativity they bring to the classroom to engage students in the remote learning setting, too? 


In an article about remote learning, Ryan Craig notes that “… the prioritization of Plexiglass [for on-campus safety upgrades] over remote learning demonstrates a fundamental lack of imagination in higher education. It’s almost always about how can we continue to do what we’ve always done, and almost never about producing better outcomes for students in an innovative or different way.” 


If teachers and faculty came together to create new ways to approach higher ed remote learning to best serve their students, they might discover new and better ways for them to learn. Applying different forms of learning other than the typical lecture and test format can help students apply what they’re learning and increase long-term retention. 


4. Incorporate community for the sake of your students 


Like many tools and features, if you know how to use them properly, they can benefit you greatly. One of those tools is online forums. These can be a great source of community and engagement for students to ask questions, apply ideas, and talk to their peers. 


Since everything is online, interaction with peers and teachers is limited to online communication as well. Lack of engagement can be detrimental when trying to understand expectations clearly and utilize online resources. Also, these students have gone from seeing 100 or more of their peers in class daily to being isolated with no interaction due to remote learning. The transition between the two settings needs to be a smooth one to set up students for success. 


The more you can get students to engage with each other through and around online learning platforms, the more successful your virtual education experience will be.


KWALL can help… 


KWALL equips teachers and institutions with the tools they need to execute their virtual classroom vision through the use of technology, professional learning systems, and strategies to increase student engagement by identifying needs and making a plan to meet them. Contact KWALL today to get the help you need to create the best web experience for students and. 


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