While online learning has been a rising trend in the higher education and corporate training arenas for years now, many institutions have relied heavily on a face-to-face learning and development offering. From courses to student engagement and retention activities, networking events, or corporate training sessions, pre-pandemic life saw many institutions:
- slowly integrating online learning into their programs,
- implementing blended models,
- or using eLearning only for a section of their teaching and learning programs.
With the advent of COVID-19 forcing quarantine measures and uncertainty on the future, the way we live, learn and work has changed. The result is that institutions are working quickly to start a digital transformation plan that successfully integrates their mission through fully online modalities.
It may seem counterintuitive but having a clear picture of your objectives as an institution or organization is the best way to start creating a digital transformation plan that’s strategically aligned with short-term and long-term goals. Depending on where you are on your digital transformation journey, consider your desired outcomes and work back to know what to put in place and in which order.
For instance, if your goal is to move all courses online, consider what type of infrastructure (technology, tools, and processes) you will need to successfully migrate to fully online. If your goal is to create digital environments that can re-create a campus or corporate setting experience, consider the types of services you will need to either revamp or begin offering online. Perhaps you offered wellness services in-person only and now you need to consider what those will look like remotely. Identifying your most important areas for digital transformation will provide a solid starting point for your plan.
2. Adopt the Right Technology and Tools
Whether you have an LMS in place, are considering acquiring new technology, or need more robust tools for certain objectives, the success of your digital transformation depends greatly on facilitation enabled by technology. To deliver an optimal learning experience, it’s vital to address setting up course environments with the right tools for your institutional needs and ensuring these are successfully adopted by instructors.
Do you need online collaboration tools? Consider video conferencing solutions created specifically for eLearning. You could leverage the existing tools in your LMS such as live chats, forums, and messaging to enable instructor-student and peer communication. It’s wise to avoid getting technology for the sake of it and rather think how your end-users will actually interact with it and the types of features you will need to fulfill institutional objectives.
Here are some of the tools to consider:
- Online proctoring – Maintain academic integrity with the help of AI.
- Plagiarism prevention – Check the quality and originality of learners’ submitted content.
- Learning analytics – Collect, analyze, and measure learner activity to optimize learning outcomes.
- Accessibility – Ensure learning content is fully accessible to all learners, regardless of disability or not.
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3. Create Effective Online Courses
Making the transition from in-person to online can be challenging for faculty and instructors. Careful consideration of how design, flow, participation, and assessments will be administered to learners will greatly impact learning outcomes. Also, integrating a framework such as Universal Design for Learning could prove highly beneficial to meet the unique needs of each learner and ensure their success. Tactics such as providing diverse alternatives to assignment completion and multiple means of engagement will make a positive impact on the desired results.
Some considerations when creating online courses include:
· Start with assessments in mind – Know what you wish to measure in order to establish what you need to deliver and the resources and activities needed. Also consider how you can prepare your assessments to scale. Consider assessment types, such as multiple choice or fill in the blanks, and automate where you can.
· Stipulate clear instructions – Providing clear instructions on course navigation and organization, deadlines, resources, activities, and expectations will help learners navigate online learning easily and keep course engagement up.
· Provide resource materials that are meaningful – Focus on the right amount of resources that will help learners obtain course objectives. Avoiding resource saturation or cluttering will help students in the end.
· Focus on activity effectiveness – Provide learners with the activities needed to advance their learning, without adding too many layers of interaction they might find overwhelming. While online learning calls for interactive sessions that keep courses engaging, always think back to the types of activities that will prepare learners for assessment.
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4. Create a Digital Culture
There are significant benefits to promoting a digital culture within academia and organizations. With technology evolving so quickly, creating a culture that embraces technology will not only advance your digital transformation plan significantly, but will also have a direct impact on results. Provide the right avenues for academic faculty/admins or corporate staff to learn about technology and facilitate collaboration. Consider mobilizing subject matter experts to teach others. Tools like video content platforms make this easy and engaging.
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5. Develop or Enhance a Student-Centered Approach to Learning and Development
Keeping learners at the center of the learning process is perhaps one of the most important components of a solid digital transformation plan. While online learning initiatives require that teachers or corporate training professionals know how to effectively use technology to teach online, the success of online learning depends greatly on pedagogy, which can be adapted to virtual classroom settings.
Considering the following questions can greatly help instructors design courses with the students in mind:
- How will students interact with the course content?
- How will they interact with other students?
- How will students interact with me as their instructor?
Also consider using alternative teaching models, such as the flipped classroom model, which can help build 21st century competencies such as creative thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.
A digital transformation plan requires thoughtful planning and financial resources. With the current pandemic, many institutions and organizations have been economically impacted and resources to evolve digitally may be compromised. Explore whether your preferred technology partners have financial relief programs in place to help you progress during these unique times.