Remote learning may be crucial for colleges, universities this fall

remote learning

Two-thirds of 860 US colleges surveyed say they plan to reopen with in-person learning this fall, while 15% say they’re planning on using remote learning for part of the curriculum, according to data from The Chronicle. Nearly one-fifth, 18%, are unsure what plans they’ll adopt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision of whether to bring students back or remain remote is slowly being resolved, but not everyone is happy with solutions being offered and although 67% of schools have decided to offer in-person classes, the path of the pandemic remains uncertain. There well may be colleges and universities that have decided to have in-person classes that will be forced to reverse themselves as COVID-19 outbreaks occur throughout the fall.

Make remote learning experiences better

A report from Eduventures suggests that institutions plan to make virtual experiences more fulfilling.

An Inside Higher Ed article posited that another outbreak would force many colleges and universities to cancel the semester rather than offer an online experience that doesn’t deliver a true college experience.

But the report from Eduventures takes a different tack, saying that if an institution can’t create online learning communities, “the right move  is not to give up, postpone or settle, but to recreate those fundamentals in new ways.

“If fall 2020 can’t happen on campus, we need to find a way for it to happen, vibrant and unchecked, online.”

“If presidents, faculty, and staff – and students – approach a remote fall term with the attitude that online learning is inherently substandard and no amount of imagination or effort will change that, then the result will either be a poor facsimile of a student experience or no higher education at all until the pandemic has passed,” according to the report.

Colleges need to adapt to online classes

Instead, it suggests, “institutional leaders need to find a way to convey a vision for the fall semester that increases student enthusiasm, deepens faculty loyalty, and galvanizes support staff… higher education is not defined by buildings, desks, and chairs.”

Among the colleges and universities proposing taking all instruction online in the fall were all of the California State universities and Wayne State University (Mich.) and Eastern Washington University.

Also proposing an online model:

  • Soka University of America (Calif.)
  • San Jose City College (Calif.)
  • San Diego Miramar College (Calif.)
  • Santa Rosa Junior College (Calif.)
  • Sierra College  Public (Calif.)
  • Skyline College (Calif.)
  • Santa Monica College (Calif.)
  • West Valley College (Calif.)
  • Mendocino College (Calif.)
  • Hartnell College (Calif.)
  • Allan Hancock College (Calif.)
  • Fuller Theological Seminary (Calif.)
  • Foothill College (Calif.)
  • Evergreen Valley College (Calif.)
  • Diablo Valley College (Calif.)
  • Cypress College (Calif.)
  • Crafton Hills College (Calif.)
  • De Anza College (Calif.)
  • Citrus College (Calif.)
  • Chaffey College (Calif.)
  • City College of San Francisco (Calif.)
  • Bakersfield College (Calif.)
  • Valencia College (Calif.)
  • Cañada College (Calif.)
  • College of San Mateo (Calif.)
  • Berkeley City College (Calif.)
  • College of Alameda (Calif.)
  • Merritt College (Calif.)
  • Los Angeles Pierce College (Calif.)
  • Los Angeles Community College District (Calif.)
  • MiraCosta College (Calif.)
  • College of the Desert(Calif.)
  • Iliff School of Theology (Colo.)
  • Central New Mexico Community College (N. M.)
  • Community College of Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • Dallas County Community College District (Texas)

Hybrid remote learning model gaining adherents

A significant number of colleges are proposing a mixture of in-person and remote learning. Most notable were the University System of Maryland, Rice University (Texas), Northwestern University (Ill.), Vanderbilt University (Tenn.), UNLV (Nev.), University of Washington, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boise State University (Idaho), University of Tulsa (Okla.) and UCLA.

Other colleges and universities proposing a hybrid model include:

  • John Brown University (Ark.)
  • Palomar College (Calif.)
  • San Bernardino Valley College (Calif.)
  • Pacific School of Religion (Calif.)
  • University of San Diego (Calif.)
  • Glendale Community College Public (Calif.)
  • University of California at Davis
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • Mission College (Calif.)
  • University of California at San Diego
  • Fullerton College (Calif.)
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • Butte College (Calif.)
  • Metropolitan State University (Colo.)
  • Eastern Florida State College
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Wichita State University (Kan.)
  • Centre College (Ky.)
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Loyola University New Orleans (La.)
  • Montgomery College (Md.)
  • Mount Holyoke (Mass.)
  • Simmons University (Mass.)
  • Cape Cod Community College (Mass.)
  • Oakland Community College (Mich.)
  • Oakland University (Mich.)
  • Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.)
  • Lansing Community College (Mich.)
  • Washtenaw Community College (Mich.)
  • University of Detroit Mercy (Mich.)
  • University of Missouri
  • New Mexico State University
  • University of New Mexico
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University (N.J)
  • Cleveland Institute of Art (Ohio)
  • John Carroll University (Ohio)
  • Case Western Reserve University (Ohio)
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.)
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Shenandoah University (Va.)
  • Western Washington University
  • Highline College (Wash.)
  • Evergreen State College (Wash.)
  • Beloit College (Wis.)

The bottom line

Colleges and universities understandably were caught off guard by the coronavirus pandemic this spring, much as many enterprises were.

Colleges reacted with a “triage mentality,” looking for the “simplest and most effective methods” with which to engage students, as one Davidson College professor said.

That change how content was delivered and, in many cases, changed the overall curriculum a student was expecting.

A survey of 3,089 college students in North America following the pandemic-interrupted spring semester found that the experience was so uninspiring that more than a quarter said they were reconsidering returning to school this fall. More than three-quarters found the online experience unengaging.

That underlines the need to refine existing remote learning scenarios to make them more a part of the “regular” curriculum, and to reimagine how best to teach online. It also means universities – which sometimes are a slow to change direction as an oil tanker – need to adopt a nimbler approach that fully supports the educational goals of their students, keeps them engaged and coming back for more.

Stay tuned and stay well.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn