Coronavirus and Higher Education: The Growth of Distance Learning

Jason Smith

Coronavirus has changed education. According to UNESCO, there are around 1.5 billion students out of school and hundreds of millions trying to get to grips with online learning.

In just a few months, the virus has reshaped schools, the idea of education, and what learning looks like. The pandemic is now forcing educators, parents, and students to find creative ways to keep the ball rolling in terms of communication, collaboration, and agility.

For higher education institutions, this means both deploying distance learning solutions and supporting students.

This is where technology comes into play, creating an ecosystem where distance learning can thrive.

In this article, we'll share with you some tips on how higher education institutions can go beyond Zoom calls and create a deeper digital ecosystem.

Higher Education: The Time for Digital transformation is Yesterday

According to a recent Deloitte study, higher education institutions still have a long way to go when it comes to digital transformation. Deloitte found that higher education institutions still need to teach both their leaders and their workforce how to create and implement digital strategies.

Higher education relies on trained professionals to function properly. In this sector, stakeholders place more importance on subject matter knowledge rather than organizational, digital, or transformation skills, which means that digital transformation often gets relegated to the backseat.

However, for many institutions, the pandemic has become an unforeseen catalyst of digital transformation. Most have been able to adapt and are now deploying Zoom and similar solutions to keep classes going.

But now that the shock phase has passed, it's important to take steps to make truly lasting changes.

These are some initiatives higher education institutions can enact to go beyond Zoom classes.

Leverage Intranets

With the right technology in place, higher education institutions can connect with their learning management systems, intranets, and other platforms to take the student experience to a new, more personalized level.

For instance, by detecting behavioral patterns in search history, interests, classes taken and interactions with classmates, institutions can provide students and staff with a full-fledged portal where every stakeholder can access information, share knowledge, and collaborate with colleagues.

Also, don't forget that today's intranets need to include social features to make sure that people feel drawn to them. For instance, intranets with the ability to tag other people, share documents easily and notify others about the progress of a task while keeping all the feedback and contributions contextual.

dotCMS Advice to Improve The Success of Your Intranets

  • Prompt students and staff to complete their profiles with pictures and up-to-date info
  • Enable integrated search capabilities to help people find what they're looking for
  • Enable rewards and peer-recognition to boost engagement
  • Build tools and spaces for two-way conversations
  • Create engaging content consistently

Read More: Coronavirus vs. Your Digital Workplace - Beyond Intranets

Connect IoT Devices

IoT devices have built-in capabilities to help education institutions with accessibility needs to manage classes, classrooms, and staff. Higher education institutions can now use IoT devices to get data in real-time.

Devices are also allowing institutions to get all the data they need, the instant that information becomes available.

Digital assistant devices, such as Google's Echo or Amazon's Alexa, enable users to enter commands by voice. Also, motion detectors, temperature monitors, and air quality sensors can measure the health of students and professors.

What's more, the data that these IoT devices gather can help marketers and educators find better ways to create content for the students and users of the online learning platforms.

dotCMS Advice to Improve The Success of Your IoT Devices

  • Gather data on students to determine which ones need the most individual attention
  • Monitor students, staff resources and equipment usage at a reduced operating cost
  • Enable slow learners to learn at their own pace using connected devices

Read More: IoT & Accessibility: How the Internet of Things is Transforming Accessible Digital Experiences

Embrace Mobile Learning

Mobile learning is a new emerging type of learning and teaching practices rooted in the idea that traditional interaction and collaboration are not enough or as effective as they could be.

Mobile learning has changed the paradigm of education, providing students and teachers with a new set of tools that enable them to integrate knowledge into their daily lives so that education is not seen as a classroom-only activity.

Technology is the leading enabler of mobile learning, as it gives educators the resources they need to craft content and construct experiences around learners' interests and needs in relation to their situations and contexts.

dotCMS Advice To Improve Your Mobile Learning Initiatives

  • Give students timely assignments straight to their mobile devices
  • Generate direct reports and improve your analysis of performance
  • Use mobile devices to offer texts, videos or audios to the students
  • Increase interaction by asking questions during your training

Read More: Today's Customers are Mobile-First, Your Strategy Should Be Too

Hyper-Personalize Content

Colleges and universities are putting a great deal of time, money, and effort into delivering better learning experiences for their students and staff. Many higher ed institutions are failing to deploy hyper-personalization techniques which can enhance the process of training the students and staff, bolstering distance learning initiatives.

Delivering hyper-personalized experiences to students can improve retention, satisfaction, and even improve grades among students. Plus, a healthy learning experience naturally leads to better educational outcomes.

For instance, dotCMS has persona-driven capabilities that enable personalization down to a granular level. Personas contain information about a specific market segment or ideal customer that's useful for categorizing content.

When a user visits your website, they're assigned a persona based on the rules you've defined, or the default persona if they don't match any of your criteria. The assigned persona impacts the dynamic content displayed during the visitor's session.

dotCMS Advice To Create Hyper-Personalized Content

  • Use data to assess the mood of the students and create content based on how they feel.
  • Customize your content, so it suits the learning path level for each learner using surveys.
  • Customize the format of content delivery to suit varied learning styles.
  • Empower the learner to create their own customized learning path.
  • Tap into behavioral data to send relevant content to the students.

Read More: Personalization - Customer Experience

Pay Attention to Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a form of analytics that lets you forecast future events based on historical data. It combines statistical algorithms, AI, and machine learning to analyze and learn from past customer actions.

Analytics help you discover and analyze patterns within your historical data to help uncover future opportunities and risks you'll want to avoid. It sounds complex, but it's not really that complicated. It's a powerful tool for higher education institutions to enhance their own data collection methods and forecast the future much easier.

dotCMS Advice To Use Analytics Better

  • Identify trends of successful students to understand the efficacy of the course.
  • Gather feedback from all the stakeholders to determine better at all times.
  • Monitor course progress to see which students need help.

Read More: How Personalization Works in dotCMS

Gettysburg College: dotCMS Brings IoT To Higher Education Institutions

Gettysburg College needed a CMS that wouldn't restrict content for use on only websites and smartphones. This required a headless CMS that could store content utterly separate from the presentation layer, and deliver it to a variety of devices - including Amazon Echo - through robust APIs.

The college chose dotCMS because the APIs available were straightforward and secure. Developers could easily interact with the CMS using the large set of web services and detailed documentation.

dotCMS also had the flexibility in creating content models that let Gettysburg's developers reformat visual content for an audio-based Alexa conversation.

These features enabled the university to build interactive Alexa Skills quickly, and deliver information that its students wanted to Amazon Echo devices. After development, the Alexa Skills were made available in the app store for students to use.

Read More: Gettysburg College Case Study

Want to see how dotCMS can help higher education institutions enable and enhance learning and governance? Contact us and let us guide you.

Jason Smith
Chief User Experience Officer
May 07, 2020

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