Digital learning desks help teachers thrive in hybrid environments

Higher education is moving towards blended learning

Many schools were already building their digital learning capabilities before the pandemic. Now, online learning is here to stay, with 47% of staff predicting classes will be primarily online in the near future, according to the Salesforce Connected Student Report.

This report also shows the need for faculty support, with 40% of staff reporting difficulty getting the technical support they need from their institutions when creating online course materials. Panelists who contributed to EDUCAUSE’s Horizon 2022 report also said professional development for distance and blended learning could have a major impact on learning outcomes.

Digital learning offices can help bridge the gap.

“Some focus on faculty development, digital literacy training, and supporting faculty in using digital tools in their classrooms,” says Kathe Pelletier, director of teaching and learning program at EDUCAUSE. “Others are more focused on the technical element – getting the tools, making sure they’re plugged in properly and that faculty are getting technical support – or they’re responsible for the broader institutional strategy on what the digital learning technology stack is going to look like.”

At UCF, Thompson’s office offers professional development to help educators make the best use of the technology tools available to them, particularly in support of distance and blended learning.

“We try to provide foundational experience for professors who are going to teach online and blended courses,” he says. “We start at the beginning: what do you want your students to leave when they leave this course? We could speak of learning goals, learning outcomes, pedagogical objectives. What do you want your students to take with them? »

READ MORE: Why Portland State University Committed to Blended Learning.

From there, Thompson’s team of experts helps faculty members align their goals with specific classroom technologies.

“It’s things like, you don’t put a 30-minute video online, because the students’ attention spans aren’t going to handle that. You don’t have a mile-long scrolling webpage in the learning management system,” he says. “You have to break things down into their essential components and break them down in a way that grabs people’s attention.”

Blended learning professional development puts technology first

At the University of Nevada, Reno, Office of Digital Learning Executive Director Ed Huffman leverages a range of technology tools to help professors up their game for digital learning.

“The Canvas LMS is essential. Using it benefits students and faculty because it helps ensure things like accessibility, making sure things are available to all students,” he says. “We support the use of the LMS by professors. It is a cloud service, and all administration is handled by my office.”

The office has also used its expertise to help equip classrooms in support of distance and blended learning.

Get the checklist and see what questions you need to answer about your blended learning program.

“We use the ClearOne Chat 150 USB speaker on the podiums in all of our classrooms,” says Huffman. “It gives a 10-12 foot reach from the podium where the instructor can walk around the room and talk. We also use the ClearOne Unite 20 webcam.”

The office takes an enterprise approach to IT management to maintain standards for the use of technology across the university. “We have site licenses for things like Camtasia, which some of our teachers will use to create asynchronous course content. We also have a campus-wide Zoom license, which people use for their remote synchronous classes, virtual office hours and other things,” he says.

The objective here is not only to promote technological literacy, but also to connect technology to pedagogy.

“We work with faculty to make sure the integration of technology is done in an educationally sound way,” says Huffman. “This includes technology that is in classrooms to enable face-to-face learning, as well as academic technologies, such as learning management system, web conferencing, plagiarism detection, monitoring on line.”

Digital learning professional development has multiple goals

At Boston University’s new Shipley Center for Digital Learning and Innovation, the mission is twofold.

“One is to support faculty with digital media and course design. We have media producers and digital learning designers who can help us,” says director Romy Ruukel. “We work closely with our Center for Teaching and Learning and our Educational Technology group to collaborate in support of faculty professional development. When we do digital media production and digital design, for example, we do it in collaboration with professors – how to integrate multimedia into lessons – and we all learn in the process.

“The second mission is no less important: to support pilots of new educational technologies with the aim of improving the experience of BU students,” she says. The center is piloting an AR/VR implementation, for example, as well as a technology platform used in language classes for increased student engagement.

As with many such digital learning offices, the Shipley Center aims to ensure teachers have the skills they need to teach effectively with modern digital tools.

The goal “is to help BU stay relevant in the rapidly changing technological landscape of teaching and learning, and to improve the student experience in residence,” Ruukel said.

NEXT : How Community Colleges Are Establishing Best Practices for Blended Learning in Higher Education.