When artist and innovator Chris Milk wrote, “Virtual reality is a technology that could actually allow you to connect on a real human level, soul to soul, regardless of where you are in the world,” we hadn’t yet thought of a world that was compartmentalized.
But it was actually the digital age when Covid-19 came along that kept families and friends in touch, kept several companies going, and kept our national infrastructure intact.
Online platforms have become enablers in education too, enabling learning to proceed despite new social pressures.
For the new academic year, City of Glasgow College has embraced a “digital first” strategy, backed by the Learning and Teaching Academy’s work.
Founded this year, through creative pedagogy, suitable technology and the use of personalized online learning spaces, the academy encourages the enhancement of learning and teaching.
The academy responded rapidly when the coronavirus broke out by transitioning to online learning during the shutdown and providing support and services to faculty. The faculty at the Academy now teaches in online, mixed and face-to-face modes.
“I’m a proponent of the collaborative teaching model, where we foster independent, resilient students who are proactive in their personalized learning,” Tom Duff, associate director at the Academy, states.
Lockdown is an opportunity to create lifelong learning for colleges and universities – some form of educational environment – that does not usually take place in the classroom or on campus. With a real-world lecture, of course, there’s nothing wrong, but this now blends in with all the other elements we can deliver, encouraging students to learn in a way that matches them.
Tom believes educators should either “mend and patch” or follow a digital strategy that produces a fully engaging 24/7/365 learning experience before learning returns to campus.
“This is a world that offers easy-to-use learning on the go, on mobile, on desktop, in the library – above all, it’s about learning the way you want to learn.”
Although the move was welcomed by students, it is fair to say that some scholars needed a little extra support.
That’s where Joe Wilson, the Learning & Teaching Academy director of digital skills, comes in. After the closure, his learning technology team facilitated the move to distance learning and online teaching and learning to support academic staff.
Our college closed right before the national lockdown and we moved immediately to remote working, teaching and learning,” he says. “In our circumstances, this overnight transition really highlighted the innovators who embraced a new opportunity readily.
In addition to Zoom, we use tools such as Microsoft Teams and other video communication tools that enable employees to create educational videos, as well as software for learning creation that enables us to generate rich interactive content, all built into our visual learning environment, Moodle.
The majority of faculty, from all age classes, rapidly adapted. There was a common sense of seizing the moment and taking our learning approach to a new level that students connected with and valued. We ran an incredibly effective program of webinars with excellent participation for those who are naturally afraid of technology and may not have had the growth.
The college also tackles the fact that by loaning them laptops, dongles and MiFi systems, a large minority of young people do not have free internet access or a smartphone. Joe says, “Now is a good time to get back to solid pedagogy and solid results in learning.” That is why we now have a college norm for our online courses that we have enforced.
To do this, faculty are required to standardize and make what they teach students consistent.
“It’s a chance for us to say to the staff, “Look, we’re going to walk with you. ” Tom says. “taken We’ve an approach that we’ve done webinars on, called ABC Learning. Basically, these people walk through the construction of the fundamentals and the scaffolding necessary to deliver a one-hour lecture on Zoom. We are running a webinar on how to use Zoom to teach broad classes, covering the use of