Online Courses Help Colleges Recalibrate
The speed at which our world is changing came into sharp focus recently as the evolving pandemic forced the closure of campuses and business around the world. While many businesses were equipped to respond swiftly, colleges scrambled to adjust and the results showed that there is certainly scope for improvement. The realisation that broadcasting classroom-based courses online might be a reasonable stop-gap but it's far from ideal. It certainly highlighted the distinction between the gold-standard of native online courses and the online delivery of classroom-based courses.
So, how can colleges successfully and speedily recalibrate to fulfil their academic obligations to students?
Online Course Credentials
At this point, most colleges cannot provide online courses but rely on zoom or hangouts to host while a lecturer presents classroom based material. This has gotten many of us over the first hurdle. However, it's widely accepted that It's neither possible or desirable to replicate the classroom experience online. If it were that simple we'd all have done it already!
What colleges - and students - actually need is a cohesive, personalised, supported and scalable solution. So, assuming that the technology basics of a laptop and internet access are in place, what makes a strong online course?
A well designed Learning Management System (LMS) provides 100% remote access to content. Online learning requires highly-developed, tested and validated course material. Support must be personalised so that students get expert guidance to manage realistic timetabling of course material and to meet assessment deadlines. Learner support is critical to student success, it needs to be around the clock, responsive and effective.
Combined, this makes for a rewarding student experience and encourages the development of self-management, motivation and problem-solving skills. These skills are front-and-centre in the employment market today. Employers place high-value on the ability to work independently, troubleshoot and take the initiative. Graduates who can demonstrate these skills are in demand.
Management & Evaluation
However, students need guidance! A first-rate programme has to have the capability to engage, monitor and evaluate students as they progress through the course. While the content is 100% online, accessible anytime from anywhere, there also needs to be structure and guidance. For that reason, learner support to assist students with one-to-one tutoring and mentoring is essential. Regularly engaging students ensures that they're making sufficient headway to stay on track and flags difficulties that need to be addressed.
To do all of this you need first-class student management analytics delivering real-time data. This must be capable of tracking the student's velocity through the course and trigger intervention if necessary. Sophisticated metrics are critical in getting a holistic picture of the student's progress and competency at every stage of the online course.
Accreditation is a key factor to consider when adding online courses to the prospectus. A widely recognised qualification is important to give students confidence in the college and in their own prospects upon graduation. Career services which assist with job placement would be an added and very attractive bonus for prospective students.
Colleges are acutely aware of the staggering investment, both financial and resource-wise, required to move to an online model. So, what strategy can they implement to progress?
Start Leading Change
If there is one thing that recent events have shown us it is that remote learning is here to stay. The time has come for Colleges to consider how they can deliver online courses in an accelerated timeframe. There are many pathways, each with distinct advantages. Collaboration with a provider of reputable online courses is he most compelling option. This means college courses can be up-and-running overnight. The significant investment required to devise, test and accredit course content has been made. In addition, colleges benefit from a scalable model, this allows them to increase enrolments while keeping overheads static. It also puts the onus on the course provider to maintain industry relevant content.
Students and colleges both benefit from this model because colleges can choose courses based on the demand of students, local industry, technical and economic trends. Also, students can access courses remotely making their educational experience less of an economic drain by reducing travel and accommodation costs.
Ultimately, it's the win-win that colleges need to stay relevant in the fast evolving world of education.
- Education has evolved past the classroom-based model
- Online education needs to be part of the mix for all colleges
- Flexible, remote learning attracts more students
- Greater affordability for students and reduced overhead for colleges
- Quality online courses have a strong syllabus of highly-relevant material
- Student analytics are critical for visibility and active management of students
- Certification is essential to validate the rigour and quality of online courses
- Learner support needs to be intensive and accessible 24/7
- Tutoring and mentorship engage students and maintain motivation