How to make remote learning tech work harder for higher education

Duncan Finlay, Head of Voice and UC Product Management

A recent government report found only half of students have been satisfied with their academic experience during the pandemic.

Of the dissatisfied students, two-thirds put it down to ‘the quality of learning and learning delivery’.

This is huge, unchartered ground for students and educators alike. And while technology can’t provide all the answers, the wrong technology can certainly slow success.

But while educators no doubt know what they need, legacy infrastructure is holding them back – just as it is in many other industries. 

54% of HR leaders say poor technology and/or infrastructure is the biggest barrier to effective remote working, according to a recent Gartner report.

Overcoming that barrier is not as simple as having all the right tools in place.

Successful remote learning, just like successful remote working, happens when you remove barriers to communication and collaboration. So those new tools need to play nicely with each other and all your existing technology and infrastructure.

Here’s why, and how you can make that happen…

People need more than a conference call

The pandemic has created many new challenges for students and educators alike. 

For those in higher education, the ability to collaborate remotely with staff and fellow students is absolutely critical. 

To do that efficiently and effectively, they need more than just a simple video conferencing platform. There are lots of different tools they need to use on a daily basis, and they need those tools to be quickly and easily accessible in one place. 

And those tools need to cater for different learning styles, of course, ideally providing a personalised experience for every student. And also a sense of community: something to at least go part of the way to replacing the feeling of physically being together. 

For staff, the challenges are similar. They also need the right tools to collaborate seamlessly with each other and their students. And they need the confidence to know they can focus on the learning without having to worry about the tech. 

But one of the key differences, and perhaps advantages, of remote learning is the ability to collect real-time data and use it to make ongoing improvements. 

Information on how people are engaging with the platforms you’re using can give you valuable intelligence, which is vital to making the learning experience as good as it can possibly be over time. 

So what’s the answer?

A ‘one platform’ approach

What do we mean by a ‘one platform’ approach?

Let’s look at a real-world example.

No doubt you’ve already read about the rise of Microsoft Teams in the past few months.

As of the end of April last year, active daily users had grown to 75 million – a 70% increase since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And its growth hasn’t slowed since then.

As of October the service had 115 million daily active users and counting – 95 million more than it had a year earlier.

It’s no longer just a convenient way for teachers and students to chat with each other. For many organisations, it’s become the primary source of communication.

But it becomes even more useful, even more powerful, when you can integrate some of your other communication tools within that same platform.

The ability to integrate 8x8 with Microsoft Teams is a great example of this.

By enabling you to seamlessly integrate voice technology within the Teams platform, it gives your students and teachers everything they need to collaborate and communicate with each other in one convenient place.

Start from the bottom: your network

Effective remote learning isn’t as simple as being able to join a conference call from your sofa.

Think about the things that work in a traditional learning environment: the ability to have face-to-face conversations, for example, and not having to spend five frustrating minutes trying to ‘connect’ to said conversation.

To help people learn as effectively from home as they can in a classroom or lecture theatre, you need to make the experience feel as seamless as it does in person.

If your underlying infrastructure doesn’t fully support new cloud-based communication tools, you’re never going to see the benefits I’ve outlined in this article.

In many cases, traditional networks simply aren’t built to cater for the kind of technologies we’re talking about. And they certainly don’t make it easy to adopt and integrate new tools at speed, which is essential if you want to keep up with the pace of change today (as we’ve seen these past few months in particular).

If your network is slowing your technology down, that’s going to have a negative impact on the learning experience.

And as we head towards a new everyday, one that will no doubt involve a higher degree of remote learning in the long term, getting that experience right could well be your biggest competitive advantage.

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