The Universidad Continental in Peru stands out among the top seven universities in the country for its modern and innovative educational offer. The institution integrates five faculties, 28 undergraduate careers, two specializations, and 10 postgraduate programs. Students can choose from three modalities: face-to-face, face-to-face and distance, and fully remote instruction, offering a multimodal and multicampus education.
With four modern campuses in the cities of Arequipa, Cusco, Huancayo, and Lima, and its P+D educational model that encompasses consolidated and emerging global theories and practices, Universidad Continental offers a distance education model based on independent work, interaction, personalization, collaboration, and flexibility. These concepts work and evolve out of the planning, ongoing monitoring, and analytics-based management the university promotes. In fact, through this model, the institution achieved a five-star rating in the “Online Learning” category of the QS Stars Rating System, and the online training quality certification accredited by the Spanish agency AENOR.
Achieving an Effective Online Learning Ecosystem
At Universidad Continental, the digital learning ecosystem has evolved from being a set of tools, resources, technologies, and methodologies, to become a space that integrates and generates educational value for both the teacher and the student. Achieving the technological integration of all tools, platforms, and solutions is fundamental for the institution and represents a major strength in its offering.
When it comes to a digital learning ecosystem, managing to integrate technology with the instructor’s methodology and the needs of the students is a challenge that the university continuously works towards, affirmed Miguel Ángel Córdova Solís, Director of Digital Technologies for Education at Universidad Continental. To this end, and with the objective to provide visibility and a contribution to society, the university created a Learning Tools and Resources Center, to promote the consultation and orientation of online resources for teaching and learning.
To evolve its digital learning ecosystem, Universidad Continental has also been working rigorously to incorporate emerging digital technologies with strong educational potential into its academic offering. From simulators and virtual labs to XR applications (virtual and augmented reality), the university has sought to carry out a strategy that combines the use of existing technological solutions, coupled with its own developments customized to its faculty’s needs and requirements.
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The Path to Digital Transformation
Universidad Continental is considered a pioneer in online education in the country, which can imply great social responsibility, according to Cordova Solís. When it comes to digital transformation, the institution prides itself on the path it has tread to date in terms of progress. However, more significant than the achievements accomplished so far has been the conscious exercise of constantly looking ahead in order to inform its next steps.
Currently, the university is deploying a two-year digital skills development plan for its faculty, with the end-goal of supporting educational transformation efforts at the institution. “It’s a continuous path of improvement, changes, and evolution because technology advances and each time new paradigms and emerging pedagogies arise”, affirmed the director. The way students learn also evolves and the university wants to be able to respond to these changes to continue innovating.
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Main Challenges of Online Education
Online education can pose pedagogical challenges, especially when just starting out with eLearning. According to Córdova Solís, online learning technologies help faculty by providing them with a variety of tools to produce their own materials and/or reuse existing ones. “eLearning platforms allow us to have a 24×7 online space available for our students where we can not only share content but also develop activities and apply learning assessments. Also, the wealth of information recorded on each student is a dream come true for any instructor, if we compare it with the resources we had 15 years ago.”
Distance education proposes a new teaching methodology. The techniques and strategies should be adjusted more towards learning and not so much to the teaching component. “Important strategies include collaborative, experiential activities that challenge students to deliver work in innovative ways and that show their learning, and to provide tutoring based on what we identify from the information collected by the LMS”, says the director.
On the road to online learning, choosing a good LMS partner is also essential. At Universidad Continental, Open LMS provided special support during the pandemic by allowing the institution to scale its web services to support a greater number of users. The university also received great support through integrated solutions such as Intelliboard to carry out personalized mentoring.
Starting a Digital Transformation Project
When it comes to starting a digital transformation initiative, the director proposes that educational institutions should advance technology initiatives for two main reasons.
1) Higher education institutions should work on processes, practices, or services that adopt technologies that provide a better student and faculty experience and communication tactics.
2) The learning experience must be transformed. Nowadays, all education institutions that have survived the pandemic have implemented online platforms and digital technologies. However, this must be accompanied by new ways of conveying content, new teaching techniques and strategies, new assessment methodologies, and, finally, a mentoring role from faculty that generates truly unique and personalized learning experiences for students.
Miguel Ángel Córdova Solís is the Director of Digital Technologies for Education at Universidad Continental in Peru. As a systems engineer and instructor since his early 20s, he has worked in various educational entities supporting online learning processes and the management of online platforms, when any reference to eLearning, the LMS, or digital platforms was relatively unknown or perceived as a futuristic trend.