Digital Future for Higher Education

COVID- 19 has brought some extreme challenges in higher education. For the safety of students and faculty, many Universities and colleges have decided to further distance learning. However, adjusting to hybrid or fully online classes, students may feel disengaged, unmotivated, or disconnected from their college community.

Online learner pursing higher education while working on her computer

But how can we help learners feel more united with their college community and classmates?
Below is a checklist that can be completed to help online students feel connected throughout their education journey. As a result of the pandemic, colleges have adapted and made the necessary changes in higher education. Faculty have learned to transfer in-person lectures to online content, create engaging activities, add more discussion posts, etc. Ultimately, this has increased the digital future in higher education.

Discuss COVID-19 and the changes that are happening. You can also discuss what is expected from your students and what they can expect from you.
Create open communication between you and your students. This can be done by emailing your students to remind them as their professor; you are there to help them succeed.
Always offer an opportunity for students to exchange information with classmates. This can be by creating a shared document for students to input emails, phone numbers, or other contact information to stay in touch with their peers.
Repeat the lessons you already taught if needed. This could be by bringing up a concept you already introduced in an email. This is important for those learners that might be missing the classroom environment. This can reinforce their mindset that they are still a part of a community.
Focus on the language and tone you use when talking to your learners. Be optimistic and hopeful by saying, "After you ace this exam .." or "When you graduate in the spring.."This will create a positive mindset in the learners and will make them excited to achieve certain milestones.
Lastly, ask your students how you can help them individually. This creates a space of comfort and support.

These simple steps can create a difference and apply more of a personal touch in the online environment. During this time, colleges have updated their ability to teach in a digital/ online aspect. However, this is a change for students as well. In which it is our responsibility as faculty to help them adapt and succeed during this shift. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is the endless possibilities of a digital future for higher education.

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