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Neuger CO.LAB Recap: Online Learning in Higher Education

August 14, 2020

On August 12, 2020, we hosted our ninth Neuger CO.LAB session, which drew over 30 participants. This week’s topic was navigating covered higher education online classes. We were thrilled to host an expert panel of highly regarded educators and decision-makers from Western Governors University.

Western Governors University Panel

Western Governors University Panelists

  • Lauran Hundshamer-Rott, Strategic Partnerships Manager
  • Kathleen Palmer, Faculty Manager of Teachers College
  • Sunil Ramlall, Academic Program Chair of College of Business
  • Christy Seawall, Strategic Partnerships Manager
  • Beth Stuckey, Lead Nurse Planner of the Professional Nursing Development Program

Key Discussion Points

Online Learners Seek Flexibility and Are Self-Motivated

  • Online learners are looking for flexibility in their individuality. They prefer to learn at their own pace that aligns with their background knowledge and experience in the subject. Not every student starts at the same level, and online learning allows faculty to gauge different levels and provide the right services.
  • Online courses were a standard method of education even before COVID. Individuals looking to achieve a bachelor’s degree or higher while working or providing for family tend to rely on online services because of the ability to structure and schedule their own learning experience.

Technology & Adaptability

  • Young adults are frequently attending online universities because they are preferential to and familiar with new technologies and absorbing information through digital forms.
  • Adaptability is crucial for making the transition from in-person to online learning as efficient as possible for both students and staff.

Accountability & Tracking Engagement

  • Very important for educators to hold students accountable for staying engaged in course work –we all know how easy it is to be distracted by online content. Providing students with distinct assignments that are applicable to work settings can help avoid distractions.
  • Track student data with learner care dashboards to analyze progress. Data dashboards can track assignment/testing scores, sign-in rates and time logs for student portals. Always keep student profiles updated in your system.

Discussion Questions

Q: What makes a great online learning experience?

Online universities need to provide ample resources to students to ensure accelerated learning: mentorship programs, virtual office hours, simulated experiential learning and student-to-student interaction. The curriculum must be directly transferable to a real-world setting. In all online learning cases, the goal is to provide a carbon copy of what a student would experience with an in-class setting while allowing for flexibility with learning trajectories and student circumstances. The student is responsible for what they receive from their education experience, but the educators must be mindful of accessibility and accommodate during the current situation.

Q: How do you channel hands-on learning processes to an online setting? (i.e. labs, field work, nursing training, etc.)

WGU partners with universities and healthcare clinics/organizations to use simulation labs –both in-person and virtual– where students can test their competency and responsiveness in a real-world setting. Additionally, WGU sends lab packages that include all the resources needed to conduct and complete the full assignment from home. Some labs are done through video sharing, which is usually hosted by the educator. WGU also has a career and professional planning program that assists students in connecting with local companies about internships and apprenticeships designed for students. Many of these opportunities are virtual to coincide with the students’ education experience.

Q: How can you stitch together multiple learning platforms and technologies to benefit your students?

There are a multitude of online platforms online that educators can use to organize assignments and records, which can be overwhelming for both staff and students. WGU is developing a system for students to have a “one sign-in” option for their educators’ platforms. This design saves the students’ profiles of an extensive cybersecurity system that collects all of their information in one. The focus is to provide seamless access to all student resources and erase the need to have multiple passwords, tabs, and accounts.

Discussion Links

In Summary

With the long term effects of COVID still unknown, online learning will play an integral part in our education systems across the U.S. This period has completely redefined our conventional learning methods, and we must remain patient with our educators and students as they respond to it all. Thank you all for attending and contributing to our space.