The pandemic has fundamentally changed how higher education is presented and received
The pandemic has changed the face of universities, from in-person hubs of knowledge to wider reaching global enterprises, which now frequently rely on asynchronous methods of teaching to educate a new generation of students. But how has the new reliance on online learning technologies impacted students, and what will universities look like going forward?
In September, Imperial College London was named the Sunday Times' University of the year 2022 for both achievement and student satisfaction. Imperial College London has become a trailblazer for delivering hybrid on-campus and online teaching during the pandemic, which has not only matched the success of their previous in person model, but has actually increased student satisfaction.
As we move into an increasingly tech-dominated world, aided in no small part by the Coronavirus pandemic, tech solutions for teaching and learning are constantly evolving, allowing university staff and students to create a new environment for learning. Using a mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication (such as online discussion forums, Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which allows for both) students are able to build meaningful relationships with their peers and can simulate the classroom environment. Teaching and learning tools such as Team Based Learning (TBL) are popular classroom tools to foster relationships between learners, as well as to aid in-depth group participation. TBL can now be carried out entirely online with purpose-built tools, or by combining features of an existing virtual learning environment with communication platforms such as MS Teams or Zoom.
Most universities have been operating some form of Bring Your Own Device policy for a few years, whether formally or informally. The pandemic has allowed students to access necessary equipment from universities, creating an environment where learning resources are available to a vast majority of students whenever they wish to access them. As universities have adapted to meet the pressures set by the pandemic, they have inadvertently opened themselves up to becoming more accessible in the process. It's now the norm to record and caption lectures, allowing students to attend class from home and at different times, or for exams to be taken off-campus. Many universities have seen an increase in student applications for the 2021 academic year; perhaps one reason for this is that they have opened up a whole new way of studying, which is inclusive of students who may have been deterred by a traditional chalk-and-talk approach.
It's still very early to say what universities will look like in the future, and it's unlikely the physical bricks and mortar aspect will soon disappear. What we can expect to see, however, is a new generation of diverse and committed students who are no strangers to using new and exciting learning tech.
Rachael Hayes is a Product Engineer at Imperial College London, specialising in e-Learning. In 2019 she helped to introduce closed captioning to recorded lectures at Imperial College London, as was included on a panel of education professionals at the EU Panopto conference in the same year. She has a particular interest in using learning tech to create greater accessibility in learning.
Rachel is a Women in Tech Excellence Award finalist 2021 - Rising Star of the Year: Public Sector & Universities.