Page 32 - Campus Technology, May/June 2020
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FEATURE > Online Learning
more to the point, what types of students are advan- taged and what types of students are disadvantaged? In any form of delivery like this, you have to be very careful — and I know at ASU we are being extremely careful — about what goes on, particularly with low socioeconomic students, because they’re the ones who are probably going to be disadvantaged the most. So we’re providing hotspots; we’re making sure they have phones and connectivity. All of those little things that you don’t think about when you’re in a face-to-face class become really important when you’re in the digital environment. Right now, there’s a lot that we still don’t know about Zoom. We’re figur- ing it out really quickly. But there are fundamental issues around efficacy, around who’s disadvantaged and who’s advantaged, that are still pretty much open questions.
CT: Who at the institution is handling that work of making sure the digital equity is maintained?
Regier: We have a team of people in the Provost’s Office who are meeting daily for 45 minutes and discussing all of these issues. As soon as there are signals from one quarter or somebody notes something, we make sure that we’re rolling out solutions to students as quickly as we can.
CT: How can instructors help students stay social and collaborative in their courses being delivered remotely? Any guidance there?
Regier: What we always say inside ASU Online as we’re building courses is, you have to focus on student engagement. And engagement can occur with content, it can occur with other students, and it can occur with faculty.
When I started this 10 years ago, we really focused on the student engaging with content. And the next field was how do we make instructor presence more available in the class? The final thing that we’ve been really successful in over the past three or four years as bandwidth increased
and we understood our student population better is focusing on student-to-student engagement. Whether those are peer-to-peer assessment mechanisms, chat rooms, discussion boards, we really focus a lot more on student-to-student interaction than we did 10 years ago.
It’s at the point where the tools for online are generating student outcomes that are as good or better than what we’ll get in the face-to-face classroom. And the hybridization of the classroom is only going to accelerate that going forward. A hybrid class going forward may be that some stuff is done synchronously \[through Zoom\] and some stuff is done asynchronously.
CT: What do you think the impact of coronavirus is going to be on higher education in the long term?
Regier: I think it’s going to accelerate realization of individuals who have not received undergraduate degrees that they need to go back to school. I think it’s going to accelerate the trajectory of employer-based credentials either in short-course certifications or stackable master’s programs, where you maybe take two or three courses and get a certificate in something that makes you more employable, and over time you might seek a mas- ter’s degree.
A lot of people are going to be returning to work in a bad economy. When that happens, everyone is thinking, how can I get the tools necessary so that the next time this happens I’m not going to be shown the door, I’m not going to be out of work?
The overall short-term implication is, there is going to be an increased demand for higher edu- cation. I think that is going to have to be capable of being delivered flexibly and at a distance because a whole lot of people are going to be real- ly hesitant to go back to a face-to-face university until there’s a vaccine.
Dian Schaffhauser is content editor for Campus Technology.

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