The last year and a half has been a learning experience for everyone in the field of education. You might remember frustrating days struggling with your internet connection to connect to Teams courses. Likewise, the pandemic has been a baptism of fire for universities on how to provide quality online learning.
While universities plan to return to their pre-pandemic state by fall 2022, many are also seriously thinking about the positive lessons that can be learned from what has happened.
The main change is likely to be the amount of online education you receive. Most universities plan to use a “blended model” that will combine the flexibility of online conferences with more interactive in-person activities, such as labs, seminars, workshops, and question-and-answer sessions.
“The reference to some universities talking about ending face-to-face classes doesn’t mean that students won’t attend any classes in person; this means that they will move away from the big conferences of 200 students towards the top. We will see a lot more of these sessions provided online because it can be much more effective, ”says Liz Barnes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Staffordshire who conducted a study on online learning.
Some universities and courses provide more online learning than others. Therefore, when choosing a university, think about what might work for you. A general rule of thumb is that hands-on classes have more face-to-face contact hours than college degrees that involve a lot of reading.
Ask yourself: do you plan to commute and prefer to stay only a few days a week with the rest online? Or do you need in-person instruction to motivate yourself and meet new people? Some universities offer a variety of options to suit different learning styles and personal circumstances.
Most university websites are unable to provide full details of how the courses will be taught. Therefore, to find out the number of face-to-face contact hours, you need to ask universities directly – and ideally attend an open house, says Barnes. . She adds that next year will always be a transitional phase out of the pandemic, so things may well change in 2022.
If you’re wondering if online education means you get better value for your money, it actually doesn’t, says Professor Allison Littlejohn, an academic at UCL specializing in learning technologies.
“The time required to prepare and produce educational material online is much longer than for conferences on campus,” she says. Instead, most universities are moving online courses because they think it’s a better way for their students to learn.
If you’re still worried about surviving Zoom conferences, there are some strategies that can help.
“Don’t watch an entire hour-long Zoom lecture. If the course is pre-recorded, combine it with active reflection on what you are learning. If the conference is live, find ways to interact with other students and academics afterwards to discuss ideas and concepts, ”recommends Littlejohn.
Interaction is an essential part of well-designed online learning, she says, so if it’s not included, ask your tutor to spend more time with individual students or in small groups, online or in person. You can also organize your own study groups to discuss what you learned in a Zoom conference or do problem-solving activities using new ideas and concepts.
One thing you might worry about is if your disrupted school experience might be holding you back in college.
“You may have had a bad experience with digital learning or feel less prepared for the academic challenges and independence that college brings. So find out what a university is doing to help you with digital skills and how it supports students, ”recommends Ian Dunn, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Coventry University.
“Think about your final year of school during the Covid-19 pandemic and what you need from a learning and teaching standpoint to thrive. “