This year’s COVID crisis came at us fast. Everyone—individuals, corporations, small businesses, and schools—had to adjust to a new online life in a matter of weeks. Schools and universities took an especially hard hit because of their reliance on in-person interactions. Some institutions had already embraced some forms of online education and had an easier time with the rapid transition. Most, however, weren’t quite as prepared. They might have plans for moving some learning online, but COVID forced them to roll out a solution with very little notice.
Initially Zoom became every teacher’s best friend as they took their classes and lectures online. Students found that sitting in front of a computer screen all day wasn’t the most engaging way to learn, however. As schools plan for the Fall semester, they must take the lessons learned from this Spring and think about how to build and maintain connection andcollaboration while ensuring learning outcomes in online classes. Courses designed specifically for online learning, for instance, can bring more benefit than videos of lectures or Zoom meetings.
Large questions loom for universities right now. Will they be able to open for in-person classes in September, with students living on campus? Will classes be a mix of online and in-person offerings? Or will universities be forced to keep all learning completely online? And what if the crisis gets worse or the world situation changes again? Institutions around the world are asking how they can plan and adapt more quickly if the situation necessitates it.
Building a strong and flexible technical infrastructure is key, and it starts with schools understanding their specific needs. Which learning management system will suit them? Do they proper bandwidth and infrastructure to support increased online traffic, especially large-scale video streaming and downloads? Have they moved to the cloud or considered how such a move can support scalability and cost-efficiency? And last—but definitely not least—are they gathering and analyzing data to give them insight into what’s working? Leveraging data will help schools understand if students feel engaged, whether and how students use the online course systems, and how course development and delivery correlates with grades and learning outcomes.