Much like the workplace, the pandemic thrust the education system into a remote learning experiment of unprecedented scale and scope. Teachers and university students alike had to rapidly adjust to a university life and campus attendance that had drastically changed short-term, with minimised contact between both students and professors.
This move towards remote learning has had its benefits and drawbacks. Whilst the lack of long-term social contact and access to on-premise facilities has undoubtedly been detrimental to the overall university experience, most have seen their productivity unaffected in the long-term, and have saved money on travel and accommodation. With remote learning having been proven to work at least some of the time, it’s likely a hybrid learning model will become the norm, potentially creating one of the biggest shake ups for university study, life and campus attendance. But for hybrid learning to succeed, it needs the right technologies supporting it.
Armed with technology that can near-replicate in-person meetings and sessions, universities have the opportunity to equip themselves to provide a rounded university experience for their students.
The next chapter of university study
While online learning was once seen as a threat to traditional education institutions, remote learning technology came to the rescue during the pandemic. For many universities, remote learning solutions had already been on the agenda, but their deployment was rapidly accelerated during the first months of the pandemic. As such, tech-savvy university students adapted with relative ease, with one study finding that the vast majority (92%) of students said during lockdown they could easily access the learning materials, applications and data needed when studying at home.
For many, this shift has unearthed some positive benefits and cost savings. It’s been suggested, for example, that international students could continue to study remotely for years one and two, and potentially only book space in halls when needed. This could provide a radical change for students restricted by distance, holding the potential to drastically reduce the financial burden of the relocation often involved with university attendance.
It’s therefore likely that hybrid learning will continue for years to come, meaning lower face-to-face attendance and a more fluent relationship between education and technology. Ultimately, this more hybrid style of study will require universities to reconsider the design of their facilities, making sure they can successfully accommodate students joining seminars and lectures both in person and remotely. And while university students are both agile enough to handle the teething pains of online learning and tech-savvy enough to quickly learn new digital platforms, it’s essential the correct technologies are in place to sufficiently replicate the university experience for students, wherever they are.
Video as the new Filofax and red pen…
One of the largest challenges of the virtual classroom experience is lack of engagement. A study early in the pandemic found that managing large groups of students remotely was especially challenging, and that lecturers were finding it difficult to effectively communicate with students working internationally. It’s clear that to sustain engagement with learning, students and teachers need to be sufficiently equipped to have regular and quality engagement.
Video holds the power to connect students and educators in a way that promotes interconnected active learning spaces, in and beyond the campus. Humans are social beings, and we often take for granted how important things like body language and eye contact are for relationships. It’s essential that universities can replicate a lecture theatre/seminar room dynamic, not only for the learning aspect but also for the critical social side of in-person attendance.
This requires quality video solutions. For example, all-in-one ‘huddle room’ style solutions for smaller and more personal seminars, like Logitech MeetUp, which include a microphone, speaker, and high-definition camera to allow lecturers to capture content which can be shared with students. At the other end of the scale, larger lecture halls will need larger PTZ cameras for recording lectures, like Logitech Rally. Smaller webcams are also essential for 1:1 tutorials.
Face-to-face interaction at eye level is important in instruction delivery and cannot be achieved with an embedded webcam. External webcams can mount onto a laptop or external display, and significantly improve the quality of video compared to an integrated camera. For the university tutor or lecturer who wants to retain an air of professionalism with their students, wherever they are, this is a must. Many webcams, such as Logitech BRIO, now include intelligent technologies that automatically adjust the light and contrast according to the ambient light (and will continue to adjust if the lighting conditions change). They can also compensate for difficult lighting should you have light source behind you, helping to bring out your features and avoid becoming a darkened silhouette.
… and high-performance peripherals as the new notebook and highlighter
To equip students further, universities should consider combining quality video solutions with other peripherals, such as a premium mouse and keyboard, to further ensure that students are working as efficiently and effectively as possible. Ergonomically designed peripherals can also ensure students stay comfortable for as long as they’re using them – perfect for those who like to burn the midnight oil!
Another category of peripheral that is seeing particular value in the further education sector is iPad keyboard cases. For students regularly travelling between lectures, seminars, and potentially different workstations within their student house or at home, these offer an affordable and effective way of converting an existing iPad into a laptop for taking notes. The latest generation of these cases even come with mouse trackpads built in, such as Logitech’s Combo Touch, and can be connected to the latest generation of iPads via a smart connecter, meaning they simply clip onto the iPad and are ready to go.
Someone who prefers taking notes by hand, but hates keeping track of loose pieces of paper? iPad styluses, like Logitech Crayon, and the intelligent software that can transcribe handwritten scrawls into neatly typed notes, are another effective tool for the student or lecturer on the move, looking to get the most out of their existing technology.
Nurturing a culture of hybrid learning
The migration to e-learning has been challenging for both university staff and students alike, so it is important that we appreciate and recognise technology as an enabler and not a barrier to learning. The pandemic has in many aspects had a limiting impact on our lives, but it’s also revealed opportunities for change. Universities now have a chance to make higher education far easier for students who choose to study away from a centralised campus.
Universities should look to support these students by creating an adaptive strategy and encourage a video-first culture to promote lasting engagement throughout the academic year. To execute this well, considerations around the quality, reliability and efficiency of collaborative technologies must come first.