Students now expect a hybrid experience for their higher education where they can physically attend class and catch up with others online if they want to. Here’s how your institution can give them the student experience they demand.


Following the lockdowns ushered in by the coronavirus, students no longer want to return to the rigidity that ruled higher learning before. Before the pandemic, online education was not as reputable as it is now and attending classes in person was often seen as the only path to a respectable education. But after COVID-19, not only has the stigma against online learning faded, but many people also now see it as the preferable way to attend school.


Both students and schools have seen that a rigorous online education is possible with the right tools and commitment. And many students have decided they don’t want to give up the freedom and other perks of this new normal. 


Over 70% of students and parents desire a hybrid learning model for their higher education. They want a situation where they get the personalization and in-class experience that comes with physical or on-campus learning and also the chance to catch up with other classes in an asynchronous environment.


More likely than not, your school already has the in-person learning part of a hybrid learning model mastered, but what about the online part? That’s where the challenge lies for most higher ed institutions.


Some still see the push for online learning as a knee-jerk reaction to the dire circumstances ushered in by the pandemic. In face of the new reality where a hybrid learning model is the only way forward, many schools are wondering whether it is possible to deliver the sort of learning experience online that students can truly engage with and benefit from.


3 ways to keep students engaged via an online campus


Here’s how to create an interactive online learning environment where students can interact with each other from anywhere while learning and working together.


1. Define a threshold for “substantive interaction”


Without any standards, online learning can easily descend into chaos and often does. It can be hard to standardize something without any standards, and that’s why your school needs to establish a threshold to determine when substantive interaction takes place.


Being able to prove substantive interaction can be a key selling point when trying to attract prospective students to your college or university. You need to be able to show what counts as substantive interaction in concrete terms whenever somebody asks.


The good news is this is easy to do. Substantive interaction can be divided into two basic parts:


Facilitating interactions between students and instructors while they learn and work
Providing feedback on student work in a way that is constructive and helps student growth

There are many ready-made tools, like Zoom and Canvas, that can offer substantive interaction through these two branches, but many universities are thinking long-term and choosing to create their own interactive environments to meet the unique needs of their online campus.


2. Make your online campus secure against intruders and cyber attacks


Another key aspect of a successful interactive learning experience is security. There are always bad actors looking to interrupt and disrupt the online experience. This phenomenon has seen the rise of “ZoomBombers,” individuals who interrupt Zoom conferences to display offensive content with the screen sharing feature or their microphones.


Leaving your online campus with inadequate security is simply begging for trouble and can manifest itself in many different ways. For example, leaving links to your courses unprotected online or on social media is an invitation to bad actors and a disrupted learning environment.


A lot of universities don’t fully appreciate how easy it can be to secure their online classes, especially using third-party software like Zoom. You can, and ought to, use a specific ID for each class session rather than just settle for a personal meeting ID for one instructor to use for all their online sessions. Instructors can also keep an eye on who enters the group to ensure that only those on the attendance list are present. If more students than expected show up one day for a Zoom, for example, the instructor should be ready to deal with that quickly.


Using a “waiting room” is also an option that many third-party platforms provide. Waiting rooms are a space where participants can wait before being admitted to the class by the instructor or facilitator. This allows enough control over incoming traffic to preclude any unwanted visitors.


You can also disable screen sharing for participants who do not need it at any particular time. You can limit or completely disable other features, like file transferring, as well as disabling entry once all expected students are present.


There will never be a shortage of nefarious individuals looking to use clever means to circumvent the preventive measures you put in place. Security is an ongoing issue, never a one-off, which is more reason to seek the help of experts in digital technology who understand your needs and the urgency behind them.


3. Seek digital partners with a proven track record


Third-party software solutions are not built with the specific situation of your school in mind. While they can be effective in a general sense, they often leave more to be desired in ease-of-use, security, level of interaction, level of control, and so on.


So, it’s always a good thing to partner with digital experts who can help your school find solutions that lend your students the rigor, interaction, and safety they crave in a hybrid learning environment.


That’s where KWALL comes in. We can take away the learning curve that usually comes when you have to move your curriculum and classes online. We have partnered with over a hundred higher ed institutions to create interactive and secure online learning environments that support students and faculty as they work and learn remotely together. If you would like to know more, contact KWALL today.


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