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The Shift to eLearning in Higher Education

October 15, 2020

Edited by Anuj Vyas.

Educators and trainers have always preferred to stand beside the traditional tried-and-tested methods of imparting their training. As this year has shown in countless ways already, the complacent attitude that has long prevailed with regards to adopting technology cannot be pursued any longer. For the majority of those who have resisted technological change in the education industry, there are now lessons being learnt the hard way.

This blog piece is based on excerpts from Wolfgang Vrzal and Ana Balula’s keynotes in Learn Tomorrow’s webinar on New eLearning in Higher Education, held on the 29th of September, 2020. Find out more about our upcoming Webinars and how to register for them from here.

This year is proving to be a watershed moment in the field of eLearning and Distance Learning. Those education providers who have been able to transition quickly, or were running with online tools already, have prospered, so to speak… As the COVID situation has laid bare, possessing eLearning competencies is a significant advantage to have for the foreseeable future.

The Moment to Aggressively Initiate Attitudinal Change is NOW

The transition from traditional formats of learning to eLearning formats is sluggish. From program directors to corporation partners, there is a lot of hesitation to let go of the old model. There is also a belief that in-class or on-location training and lecturing lets them exercise a degree of control which online methods do not allow, which is a false belief in many ways. This belief comes from a lack of understanding of digital tools and belies a lack of trust in the central stakeholder, the student, most of whom are heavily invested into the success of their training programs.

In this respect, the goal-post of the educators needs to shift from ‘Output’ to “Improvement”; learning needs to be considered as a process, rather than as a ‘Result’, for their own progress towards adopting current technology.

“The focus should be on the process. Amidst the development of the science of teaching, somewhere the idea of research and science being about the process and not the result got lost. As teachers and lecturers, we haven’t been brought up on the idea of focusing on the process. We have been geared towards being output oriented. Learning outcomes have to be adjusted according to the reality of the world we are living in.”

Wolfgang Vrzal

In cases where certain decision-makers might be hesitant to technology, other stakeholders like students and trainers can often influence that shift in perspective.

There are encouraging signs that are emerging in this respect. People are willing to pay more and more for distance learning programs, even if it means that they end up paying a lot more than they would in in-class training, where the fees are generally substantially lower. This is because it offers them the freedom and quality-of-life benefits that distance learning brings.

Clearly, online formats are there not only to fall back upon if a global crisis calls for it, but are indeed appreciated and desired permanently.

Life-long Training Ethic - for Teachers and Trainees

For this paradigm shift to happen, it has to be grounded in academic staff development, to promote continuous self re-invention, since the world is moving fast and we have to position ourselves as professionals, especially to strengthen learner-centred processes which emphasise student agency.

We can think of students as partners in the teaching and learning process; embracing inter-disciplinary collaboration within not only higher education, but also within communities and companies. There is a need to prepare students for a life-long disruptive future, and also to find ways to envision equity among students and professionals.

Tech companies have helped us to cope with this challenge for now and the future, thus presenting an opportunity for the higher education industry to go from temporary response to permanent change.

“Training should be something that encompasses all our lives. It should start with adjusting learning outcomes according to real-world reality. Next, its imperative to assess new teaching methods, tutoring and feedback strategies… change ‘assessment of learning’ into ‘assessment for learning’, and re-evaluate our methods of teaching. If we want to improve our practice, then we need to evaluate ourselves neutrally and without bias.”

Ana Balula

Systemic training of education professionals has the potential to unfold multi-level teaching, helping teachers develop soft- AND hard-skills in an articulate approach and to develop thinking skills like critical thinking, flexibility and creativity, which will be increasingly relevant in future jobs.

With the onset of the pandemic, teachers were asked to react to the constraints that health issues have posed and were asked to somehow mitigate these, so that teaching and learning could continue. There were some inequalities involved, which caused frustration not only amongst teachers but also learners. Lets hope how we can address these now paves the way for better preparedness in the future.

Technology integration is paramount, not only from teaching but also from teacher-training perspective. Our current affair with technology is here to stay, so we should embrace this change and engage in systemic training across all levels in the training industry.

Without a question, teachers in higher education must embrace life-long professional re-skilling and up-skilling in keeping with the fast-changing times.

Visit Learn Tomorrow's Events page to register for our upcoming webinars.

Wolfgang Vrzal is the Academic Head of Center for Academic Continuing Education at University of Applied Sciences for Management & Communication, Vienna (FH Wien).

Ana Balula is a Researcher and Professor at the Research Center on Didactics and Technology in the Education of Trainers, University Aveiro, Portugal.

Anuj Vyas is a member of Learn TomorrowcBook.AI aims to create a new learning experience providing a personal Learning Feed, which smartly selects learning content on the basis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Artificial Intelligence.

Photo by Marina Montoya on Unsplash

Learn Tomorrow is an eLearning technology provider. cBook is an integrated Learning Experience Platform (LXP) aiming to create digital learning experiences with impact. Tailored to the needs of businesses, academies & trainers.

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