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Remote learning: How to keep university students engaged

Student remote learning on tablet in the kitchen

As Covid-19 has taken over the year of 2020, education has had to balance between distance learning, online classes and self directed learning.

For most universities, lectures have moved online. As a result of Covid-19, remote learning is looking to hang on for a while to come.

An unstable future for universities.

For some students, decisions are having to be made on whether or not to attend university the next academic year.[1] There are arguments over tuition fees remaining the same and accommodation costs. Is it fair on students to have to pay these costs just for remote learning? And is the quality of education online going to be the same? [2]

A recent survey conducted by the International Association of Universities found that 46% of respondents believe that Covid-19 will affect enrolment numbers for both local and international students. 27% believe that it will only affect the numbers of international students.[3]

Universities should use the current situation as a catalyst. They should become innovative, in the hope of attracting and retaining students. One of the biggest attractions of attending university is enjoying new experiences. If remote learning is to continue, universities must provide an experience. Students will require something that’s going to engage them, and motivate them to start university and to continue attending online classes.

Research shows that immersive learning improves engagement and knowledge retention. This could be something that universities can benefit from.

So what is immersive, interactive learning and the benefits?

  • Realistic scenarios framed in simulated or artificial environments
  • Can be completed out remotely
  • Provides a safe space to learn, practice and fail
  • Opens up more flexible learning opportunities
  • Time and cost efficient

How can you use this to attract potential students?

Provide a remote learning experience

Experiential learning is one of the greatest ways we can learn.[4] Through immersive learning techniques you can provide a real experience for your students in a safe, online environment. For courses which naturally have a practical aspect, this will be easier. However, there are tools available that can transform most courses into immersive, interactive scenarios.

“Educators need to take a step back and ask not ‘how can I replicate what I do in the classroom’, but ‘how can I redesign this learning experience to take advantage of a whole wealth of technology that can deliver a full learning experience’ – not just the delivery of information?”

Kathryn Skelton, chief transformation officer at FutureLearn[5]

You can add interactions within your immersive scenarios to provide the opportunity for students to be able to practice their learning. Whilst this is a good way to keep your students engaged, it’s also a great tool for you to test them. Making your job as a lecturer a little easier.

Re-purpose existing content

Transforming your learning doesn’t mean you have to create a whole new library of content. You can use your existing materials and readily available tools to quickly make it digital, interactive and immersive.

However, if you have the opportunity to create new content, video should be at the top of your list. You don’t need a whole production crew if that isn’t possible. You can easily create videos on your phone at home.

With existing written content, you can create video scenarios using animation tools, screen recordings or self recorded videos. If you have existing video content or presentations, this can easily be made interactive using an authoring tool like Near-Life™ CREATOR.

Near-Life™ CREATOR allows you to bring together existing video, and add in interactions to create gamified, branching learning scenarios.

What does this mean?

Our branching learning scenarios mean the narrative unfolds depending on the learners interactive choices – good or bad. The built in time restriction, makes scenarios even more realistic. Learners must ensure they know the material before they undertake a quiz.

Near-Life™ CREATOR allows you to incorporate scoring and feedback and a minimum pass score. This is helpful for students to understand if their choices were right or wrong and why. Plus, its useful data for the planning of future lessons and to gain key understandings of the level each learner is at.

The Near-Life™ learning approach is applicable to many sectors, including retail, healthcare, corporate and the emergency services. The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester used Mission ready’s Field Security Management course to supplement the students’ experience. The remote learning course includes interactive learning scenarios to allow students to practice behaviours and protocols that are the ideal response of all humanitarian staff working in the field.

Making the future of universities stable

The change from classroom to remote learning happened overnight. It seemed to be a rushed process to ensure learning continued as usual. If this is to continue for universities, there are ways in which they can become more engaging, and experiential.

It’s important that every route is considered properly. There are many tools available, however, it’s crucial to think about your goals and objectives first. From this you will be able to decide on the online route you will take, and how you will take it.

The most important thing is to keep your learning engaging, to be able to achieve the goals given and to provide an experience.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-52753913

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/how-covid-19-is-sparking-a-revolution-in-higher-education/

[3] https://www.iau-aiu.net/IMG/pdf/iau_covid19_and_he_survey_report_final_may_2020.pdf

[4] https://near-life.tech/experiential-learning-in-a-digital-world/

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52647601

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