DENVER (KDVR) — As college students return to campus this week, many are wondering whether the delta variant will send them right back to remote learning online.
According to experts in the realm of online education, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.
After all, last year colleges and university like CU Boulder were epicenters for a lot of the outbreaks we saw along the Front Range.
The good news is: educators would be a lot more prepared now if that transition is needed.
Prior to the pandemic, there were a lot of trends happening already in higher education toward technology in the classroom, more online courses and also: more hybrid learning.
But then COVID-19 forced the education world to jump 10 years ahead within one year’s time.
Experts tell the Problem Solvers what we’re seeing now with back to school in 2021 is kind of a cautious approach to more of the blended or hybrid styles of learning.
“There are logistics issues with students living on campus and different variables there. But from a course standpoint they should be be able to pivot from within their learning management system – the technologies they’re using in the classroom – they should be able to make the move fully online pretty rapidly if the need arises,” explained Ryan Lufkin with Canvas.
Canvas produces the leading technology used by thousands of colleges and universities in remote learning.
A big change this semester: professors will be analyzing data more often to gauge student engagement levels.
According to online education experts, keeping students engaged is the biggest challenge facing educators right now.
Many professors used the last year and a half to really learn how to engage their students in new ways online by emphasizing a lot more intentional design in hybrid coursework and full coursework online.
This includes not just putting up a video of a recorded lecture, but more graphical design work and interactive elements.
“In fact, when you look at a very large in-person course in a 300 person auditorium, the level of engagement is incredibly low in those. So when you replace those with fully online courses, the engagement level is actually much better. So we don’t think you’ll see a lot of those 300 courses coming back in-person,” Lufkin added.
According to online educators, when a course is actually designed well it can be just as engaging as an in-person course.