At the Lab, we’ve long talked about the fast-changing learn-to-work ecosystem. In this series, “How might we future?”, we ask Lab education designers to share their thoughts on how we adapt to and stay learner-centric in a (newly) virtual higher ed world. 

Matthew Aranda

Microcredentialing @ the Lab (BadgedToHire, 21st Century Skills Microcredentials), vsbl Platform Development

How might we both adapt to and stay learner-centric in a newly virtual higher ed world? 

Be ready to provide radical support to students.

COVID-19 is highlighting previous racial and economic disparities, made only worse in this crisis. Underserved and under-resourced learners are experiencing greater negative impacts on health, economic security, and education, not only for themselves personally but also in their families and communities. One of the key things we can do to best serve learners in this moment is to center solutions on their needs and to practice greater empathy. 

We’re seeing many institutions respond to this moment by keeping learners at the center and doubling-down on their commitment to their students and communities at-large. Across the country, educators and administrators are offering guidance and sharing practices on how the education system can best support learners now. Dr. Manuel Rustin, a high school teacher from Pasadena, CA, advocates for giving students all A’s in face of increased responsibilities at-home. Consider what it takes and what it means for both educators and learners to shift learning environments from the classroom to online. Embrace best practices for how to employ culturally-affirming teaching in virtual learning communities.

What questions would you like institutions to consider at this time? 

Are we keeping track of what COVID-19 is showing us is now possible? Before this crisis, lots of institutions were talking about online courses being years away. Now, learning providers from K-12 to higher ed have pivoted to deliver all instruction online. This is a new power; this is a new responsibility. How are institutions approaching this to benefit underserved learners?

 

What are you currently reading / listening to / watching? 

  • [Watching] Gentefied on Netflix
  • [Watching] Unorthodox on Netflix
  • [Watching] Hunters on Amazon Prime

 

Tara Lifland Baumgarten

Microcredentialing @ the Lab (BadgedToHire, 21st Century Skills Microcredentials), vsbl Platform Development

How might we both adapt to and stay learner-centric in a newly virtual higher ed world? 

Adopt better pedagogy! Students around the world are protesting and questioning why their tuition isn’t going down now that the experience is entirely online. They are demanding a better product. Online learning (read: the difference between online learning and emergency remote teaching) has to go through a way more stringent course review processes than that of F2F (face-to-face) courses. Let’s use this opportunity for everyone (those new to teaching, and those who have been teaching the same course for 20+ years) to take another look at the intentional design of our curriculum. One of the most rigorous components of an online course review is a concept called ‘alignment’: every resource, activity, or tool used in an online course must explicitly tie back to a learning objective. 

One challenge for the newly learner-centric virtual learning world: In addition to learning objectives for your course, ask from a learner perspective, “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t tie your activity or reading to something actionable for the learner, rethink why you’re using that resource in the first place or how you can tweak it so it’s readily apparent to a learner why they’re doing this and how it’s going to help them in the future.

 

What questions would you like institutions to consider at this time? 

To those teaching online: What is one experiment you can try with your online class that you couldn’t in your F2F environment? This time apart has provided a very humanizing experience, particularly for faculty who often have a power dynamic with their learners. A short, very imperfect video with your dog, in the kitchen, or in between episodes of your favorite show can help you connect with your learners in a very personal way. Check out the #humanizeOL hashtag on Twitter for other ideas!

 

What are you currently reading / listening to / watching? 

 

How might we both adapt to and stay learner-centric in a newly virtual higher ed world? 

For too long, institutions and organizations have operated in a constrained mode. We say things like “we can’t because [insert all the reasons here]”. But the last few weeks have demonstrated that we must and we can.

As institutions and organizations adapt to this “new normal”, I invite designers to imagine (or reimagine) what experiences could look like for learners. Consider how you can meet learners where they are and be open to continual feedback in the spirit of continuous growth. Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress. Solicit honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t in helping learners and workers stay motivated and engaged in their experience.

What questions would you like institutions to consider at this time? 

How are you infusing learner or stakeholder voices into your own processes to ensure the co-creation of solutions that are engaging and motivating for all parties? What strategies are you employing to move beyond soliciting input and truly make it a collaborative co-design process?

What are you currently reading / listening to / watching? 

 

Brian LeDuc

Catholic University of America – Tucson, GraduateNYC

How might we both adapt to and stay learner-centric in a newly virtual learning world?

With 10 million people already filing for unemployment and 26%+ of adults surveyedsuggesting they will seek (online) education institutions to reskill for their next role, the opportunity to serve local communities with workforce-driven pathways has never been greater, or more uncertain. This approach offers opportunities for leaders of small and medium-sized businesses to engage with local talent while they skill up and earn a degree or credential.

In Tucson, AZ, we’re seeing this solution develop in real-time: a 4-year university partnered locally with the community college to develop a place-based model to earn and learn while retaining local talent. Together with community stakeholders, they are shaping the student experience, curriculum, and in-class projects. This localized, place-based online-first approach may be the adaptive strategy to withstand enrollment headwinds. And, with traditional enrollments for next fall already showing signs of falling short of goals, higher education institutions are being called to adapt and serve their communities more dynamically (and for a broader student audience) than ever.

What questions would you like institutions to consider and look towards at this time? 

Many institutions are feeling the ground move beneath them as their value propositions shift from core strengths (like delivering a strong on-campus experience in small, relationship-driven classrooms) to new competencies (like moving instruction and student services online). By taking note of their value proposition and inventorying their core strengths and capabilities, institutions can build strategies against what they’re already doing well to highlight, package, or position themselves differently in light of the current environment. They can also use this moment as an opportunity to establish a learning roadmap for developing new competencies and capabilities and set up a more adaptive organizational strategy.  


What are you currently reading? 

Tune in May 7 for our next featured ed designer’s response to: How might we future?