Transforming Distance Learning: Technology and Tools for Today’s Educators

  • August 05, 2020

From pre-school to Ph.D. programs, education is undergoing a sea-change.  Due to the immediacy of pandemic defense, it was necessary to jump into online meeting apps in March 2020 for everything from storytime with the librarian to class lectures to dissertation defense. But the experiences of the last few months have shown us that ‘distance learning’ must continue to evolve to be more intuitive, more engaging, and more accessible for instructors and students across the education spectrum.

Three trends are already clear:

  1. Hybrid and multi-modal learning are here to stay.
  2. Students are asking for customized learning experiences to include career building and community interactions
  3. Learning Management Systems for instructors must quickly expand to Learning Experience Systems that unite multi-modal learning for instructors AND students into digital hubs that deliver engagement and collaboration.

Circadence and Microsoft shared insights about technology and distance learning solutions in a recent Circadence hosted webinar.  Experts talked about how Circadence’s Project Ares (specific to cyber security education) and Microsoft’s Teams for Education and Azure Labs (both applicable across learning disciplines) deliver solutions that address the three trends mentioned above.

  • Project Ares is an on-demand cyber range with integrated cyber scenarios that gives users hands-on experience as close to real work experience as possible short of doing an internship. This is a true career building tool.
  • Microsoft Teams for Education is a Learning Experience Platform for classrooms and course programs of all sizes. All sorts of tools and applications (course material and videos, calendars, assignments, assessments, and AI-driven analytics) can be snapped to the Teams hub for easy access by instructors and students.
  • Students use computer labs at high schools and universities for everything from word processing to applied research, big data computing to robotics and artificial intelligence. While physical computer labs are closed, and even after they open again, Microsoft Azure Labs provides a way to offer all this compute capability online in a way that is 1-2-3 simple for instructors to set up and students to access.

“It’s more important than ever to sustain engagement.  Collaborative environments like Microsoft Teams and Circadence Project Ares are necessary to replace many things that we take for granted with ‘in person’ education. Using dashboards to see student progress and then reaching out for 1:1 communication in email or chat apps or video meetings helps to foster engagement beyond just the video lecture. “  ~ Dr. Brad Hayes, University of Colorado – Boulder and Circadence.

Teaching online is not easy and it is not as simple as giving the same lecture in a meeting app as you would in a classroom.  Sustaining real and meaningful connection between instructors and students who are now all physically distant is the new normal.

Educators are realizing that they will need to teach in remote or hybrid environments for a longer timeframe than they originally expected (and probably prefer). As a result, they are working with fellow colleagues and technology procurement decision-makers to understand how (if at all) technology can support their remote teaching pedagogy in a way that is unifying and collaborative, not divisive and barrier building. With these intentions in mind, we thought the below quote from C.S. Lewis captured the mindset for technology adoption in distance learning best.

“You never know what you can do until you try, and very few try unless they have to.” –C.S. Lewis

We honor all the dedicated educators who find themselves in ‘have to’ mode and are working hard to learn new skills, new tools, new teaching techniques, and new communication methods to deliver the very best educational experience they can for their students in these changing times.  We send an enthusiastic ‘Thank you’ to all educators!

Check out the webinar

to learn more about online tools that can keep your teaching on track AND help bridge the ‘engagement gap’ with your students.