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Navigating online education post-pandemic: advice for colleges

The digital learning landscape has changed dramatically since the publication of Robert Opel Online In 2016: an explosion in outsourcing program managers online, intensifying competition between would-be cheaters and technologies designed to thwart them—oh, a global pandemic that has turned nearly every student into an online learner and every professor into a technologist.

in a new book Staying online: How to navigate digital higher education (Routledge), Opel, Vice Dean Emeritus for Online Learning at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, collects his writing in Within higher education and other publications on a wide range of topics.

He answered questions via email about his new book and the evolving landscape of online learning. Below is an edited version of the exchange.

Q: As someone who has led the institutional strategy around online education and has closely observed the landscape since the late 1990s, do you think that the compulsory experimentation of students, professors, and institutions with distance learning has significantly reshaped the place and state of technology (and permanently) enabling learning? And if so, in ways that would increase support for him?

a: Online learning in emergencies, although introduced largely to amateurs last year, was really something that mattered – shock therapy for higher education. According to a number of recent reports, distance education during the pandemic has accelerated the acceptance and expansion of online learning, revealing how quickly institutions have responded to expanding online learning and how unexpectedly positively students and faculty have reacted. A survey this spring concluded that the majority of students are surprisingly excited to continue studying online, while faculty say they now feel more confident about distance education than ever before.

Even Harvard, a long-reluctant company, launched its first online degree this spring, followed by other institutions, eager to join in, with many signing on with OPMs — commercial vendors that build and market virtual software — or planning to launch fresh new ones. Online certifications on their own.

But the nation’s massive immersion in digital education last year was not an entirely drastic departure. Over the past decades, online education has moved like a plane on a runway, taking off slowly at first and then constantly, taking up a larger share of higher education. If you look at this eloquent graph, cleverly devised by educational technology expert Phil Hill from federal data, you’ll see how the winds online have been blowing, with residential registrations dropping as the internet steadily rises. These trends, which have manifested themselves over decades, but are engraved in the mitigation of the epidemic, are now more dangerous than ever.

Two facts explain these shifting trends: the decline on campus is largely a direct result of the nation’s number of high school graduates, while the rise online comes from the country’s dramatically changing economy, which is amplified with large numbers of students who must work To go to college, fill virtual classes with non-traditional students.

To earn digital degrees, middle-aged adult learners also enroll in distance classes for a chance to secure a more rewarding stake in the post-industrial economy. Along with new cohorts of 19-year-olds, academic leaders must now pursue non-traditional and mid-experienced students, and today, digital education has a double duty, not only crucial to ensuring the continuation of higher education, but as an ethical practice.

Q: If online/digital/virtual learning is going to be a meaningful part of more (if not most) colleges and universities going forward, what are the biggest problems they will have to face? Are the issues more technical, educational or organizational?

a: All three, in fact, as colleges that aren’t yet on the online rush will need to get their ducks in a row, make sure they have everything they need in place, with modern digital magic, and cutting-edge teaching methods to keep students glued to their screens and dynamic leaders. , which makes the ship online floating and flexible.

But there is a fourth requirement: business acumen. Colleges and universities admit they are not very good at it, but will need to accelerate the exploitation of digital recruitment, as for-profits and OPMs come forward; Otherwise, even if they mastered the correct hypothetical skills, they might be outgunned for maneuverability. Effective digital recruitment requires another art that higher education has been reluctant to practice – that of spending serious money on marketing. To succeed, colleges and universities will need to break some old, stifling habits.

Q: You conclude your new book with an impressively honest chapter on past affirmations, which, after a second thought, realize you’ve missed the mark (at least partially). How do you change your mind about massive open online courses and video streaming instructions?

a: Changing one’s mind is an essential feature of the human condition. If we get stuck in childhood, rather than open up to experience, how do we learn to love olives or other foods that most children find unappetizing? I’ve dug my heels in opposition to MOOCs and video streaming because both lack what I consider the gold standard of high-quality virtual education – leaning forward in active student participation, rather than sitting back, passively watching lessons.

But after years of watching how students actually participate online, I’ve learned that digital education isn’t a one-size-fits-all, but a coat of many colours. It turns out that although learning science tells us that active participation is the most effective way to learn, MOOCs and streaming videos can be a useful alternative to traditional education. Certainty is the powerful enemy of mind-altering behaviour.

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