6 min read
Due to the pandemic, education models have changed drastically in the last 3 years. Digital education and the Digital Campus have been established and enable students and faculty staff to be more flexible and creative.
- How the pandemic changed the education sector
- Digital education takes the lead
- The "Digital Campus" innovates education institutions
- Digital education needs to stay innovative
How the pandemic changed the education sector
During the COVID pandemic, universities and schools were partially closed and had to change their approaches everywhere. Every country set up different strategies to avoid interruptions of daily operations. From the second half of 2020 almost all education institutions had to change their traditional education models to an often-new online environment.
Universities and schools that already had the right infrastructure and tools in place in combination with teachers who were used to work with digital technologies and learning environments were able to react fast to this disruptive situation and created a new "hybrid" learning environment that made news of digital functionalities, collaboration methods and gamification elements.
However, most institutions were not fully prepared and struggled to keep schedules up and offering online education in the same quality as in class. This demonstrated that many education institutions were not prepared for a virtual approach. Online platforms were not used to their full potential, teaching personnel did not know how to translate their lessons to the virtual environment and many students lacked proper access to a stable internet and missed the exchange with their classmates.
As with many other industries, the pandemic kickstarted an acceleration of the digital transformation and pushed many institutions to switch to online classes and digitize their learning platforms.
Digital education takes the lead
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To support these institutions, the European commission developed the “Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027)” which states that digital education must facilitate more personalized and student-centered teaching. This has increased the need for university staff as well as for new platforms and tools to implement the action plan.
Synchronous and synchronous education
Since online education can be both synchronous and asynchronous, there are also different ways to develop courses, course material and learning journeys.
Synchronous learning describes "live" classes where everyone takes part, can exchange thoughts, ask questions and collaborate and discuss.
Synchronous online classes do have the challenge to create a collaborative environment that is just as lively as an in-class since it usually is easier to discuss topics and react to others if students can see each other's body language. However, even if not every participant has their video camera on, it's possible to set up and enable ways to signal communication, e.g., via emojis (raising a hand to speak, applauding for agreement).
Asynchronous online classes often involve digital course work, a recorded lecture or other material that is basically on-demand and can be looked at in the student's own time. This is not a new concept, since there have been plenty of online universities, courses, and certificates even before the pandemic. However, for many education institutions, the challenge was to adapt previously offline lectures and classes to the asynchronous model.
Challenges can be to create learning material, quizzes, and lectures that are engaging. Especially in the early months, many teachers simply gave student's more to read, instead of actually deconstructing their live classes to make for an inspiring and actually educational online experience.
The "Digital Campus" innovates education institutions
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The university experience is more than just classes. Many universities realized this during the pandemic (and some even did before that). For too many institutions, many administration processes were still very analog, with print-out documents that had to be filled out by hand and handed in personally or via post.
However, the "Digital Campus", as it is called, aims to create the entire university experience digitally and connect it to offline activities for a truly hybrid education.
The Digital Campus is different for each institution but can include things such as:
- Student profiles and course overviews, exam results, etc.
- Registering for courses, living arrangements, events, organizations, etc.
- Applying for tuition and other university programs
- Online tutoring
- Support services
- Offering admin and info services for faculty staff
- Downloads of learning tools and platforms
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Data management is probably one of the biggest hurdles for any company that wants to digitalize their organization. Many universities had to migrate analog data to a digital environment to be able to offer digital services. And often, it can be incredibly difficult to gather, structure and manage this data.
Digital education and Digital Campuses don't just have to be state-of-the-art and offer great courses. Just like offline universities, digital offers have to have an incredibly high level of data security to protect students, faculty and other staff from cyber attacks.
All solutions need to be accessible, since educational institutions need to be open for all students. Just like an offline campus can be inaccessible due to lack of wheelchair facilities or navigations for people with seeing disabilities, a Digital Campus can exclude students by not accommodating screen readers by lacking alt text for images and graphics or by having automated captions and transcripts of lectures and video courses.
Scalability became a problem for many institutions that had already used digital platforms but of course were not used to the high increase in user numbers once the pandemic forced everyone online. Suddenly, usually stable services were not available, websites crashed and online courses could not take place due to bad bandwidth. Even institutions that have their own on-premise servers nowadays rely on additional cloud-services to weather any surprises.
Change management for staff, faculty and - to a lesser extent - students has been a big challenge, especially at the beginning. For teaching staff, it was a hard, and often uncomfortable switch from the comforts of a lecture hall to the new environment of an online class. Students often suffered under the lack of experience of their teachers and the institutions did not guide their faculty (and other staff) enough because they also were just setting up guidelines and roadmaps for the "New Normal".
However, to make sure that not just online courses but the concept of the Digital Campus as a whole is a success, all users need to be onboarded, trained, and educated how to make the best of it. That way, they can see the value that lies in these new digital platforms and how they can present innovative ways to engage with students (and each other).
Digital education needs to stay innovative
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To be able to stay innovative and develop options that cover all the students' needs, education institutions have to understand the complexity of short-period experimentation, solution development, student and staff engagement, resources and investment.
In the last three years, most institutions have implemented many changes but still work to develop their services and functions further. Additionally, the "New Normal" has also created a change in expectations, requirements and behavior. For example, more and more students prefer shorter courses, more virtual or hybrid formats and more flexibility when it comes to choosing between the analog and digital campus.
The institutions themselves, meanwhile, have worked on digitizing registration and administration processes to automate more and enable self-service for more flexibility (and reduced costs).
The concept of the 360° customer view has therefore moved into the field of education as a 360° student view and journey that covers campus life starting with administration, education but also including support services, living arrangements, culture & lifestyle options as well as community engagement.
Salesforce.org offers solutions that are specifically designed with HEDA (Higher Education Architecture) or EDA (Education Architecture) to set up solutions that are compliant, scalable and fit to the specific requirements in the field of education.
As partner of the Salesforce.org network (read more about it here), we support you with the evaluation, implementation, and customization of your digital platforms.