Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting at the HETMA Spring 2021 Virtual Conference “The Hybrid Life.” If attendees to the breakout session left with just one takeaway, it was this – when thinking about learning technology and how best to implement it in a higher education environment, the question that needs to be answered is, “How can we help enhance the learning experience?”
It’s no secret that the last year has thrown many curveballs at us, especially when it comes to learning. We’ve gone from completely remote eLearning to hybrid to in-person instruction and, in some cases, back again. One thing has remained constant, though: with the right technology, we have to make “The Hybrid Life” feel as close to in-person instruction as possible.
Students have largely mastered the technology, thanks in part to a generation born with devices in their hands. The move to eLearning wasn’t a complete shock to their systems – today’s students have likely had some form of engagement across education platforms and apps even prior to the pandemic.
The focus for technology buying decisions should be turned to the professors and teachers.
To make the most of any hybrid situation, a professor turning around to look at a screen is the first hurdle we want to solve with a technology solution. Every time the professor turns and un-engages with the in-person students to engage with the remote students, the flow of class is interrupted.
One way to combat this and make everyone feel like one cohesive classroom is by installing screens for remote students in the back of the class, typically behind the last row of students.
This allows the professor to look forward throughout the lesson and engage with the in-person students directly in front of them as well as the remote students on the screens, as if they were sitting in desks next to their in-person peers.
In smaller rooms, this works with multiple displays. In larger rooms, projection is the ideal solution. By having all students – in-person and remote – visually in front of the professor, the typical flow of the class is preserved.
For lectures this works especially well, and for classes that require student interaction, the addition of displays at the front of the room as well allows in-person students to interact with students on the screens that are remote.
The “return” of the desktop
Ask most students born after the new millennium if they have a desktop computer, and you might get some giggles. But the desktop monitor is coming back as an auxiliary monitor as part of the eLearning/hybrid approach.
In a pure virtual model, for example, with everyone in their dorm room or bedroom, the personal screen is a laptop or even a tablet or mobile device, which is not ideal for sitting through multiple classes a day.
Investing in desktop monitors with DisplayPort turns any personal device into a complete hybrid learning solution. Having “command center” or a designated workspace with the addition of a desktop monitor dramatically impacts your output – the term “environmental psychology” specifically studies how and why our environment impacts us, and having a dedicated desk space for eLearning falls into that category of study.
Learning technology sounds expensive
At the start of the pandemic, every industry was scrambling to figure out a way to make it work. For education, technology was a key component to getting students online for eLearning. Piecing together existing technology and purchasing what they could on the fly, there was no real plan in place.
Now, universities must strategize on ways to bring the best technology experience to their students. Especially for institutions that are still fully remote or hybrid. Students (and parents) want value for their tuition, which likely won’t be fully realized until full in-person, on-campus situation.
By using technology to communicate and justify the value of higher ed moving forward, and using that strategically to purchase the right technology to meet those needs, the cost becomes less of a deciding factor.
Yes, there is an investment needed upfront, but in the long run, the value provided to both students and educators is immeasurable.
What to consider when you are considering technology purchases
I also shared ‘8 Questions for Determining Technology for the Classroom,’ and quite honestly, these could be applied to any technology decision:
1. Who is going to be the primary viewer?
2. What content are they planning to view?
3. When (what) time of day is viewing taking place?
4. Where is the display going to be used?
5. How are facilitators planning to connect to the display?
6. Why are you putting a display in this space? What are the goals?
7. Was there a display here previously, and if so, what were the concerns?
8. Are there any other factors we should consider for this room?
In this post-COVID world where technology is something every industry is looking at to solve for social distancing and other guidelines, asking the right questions to determine what your needs are will ensure you purchase the right technology.