By Marc Remond, vice president, meeting and learning experience solutions, Barco APAC
Higher education institutions around the world have acknowledged that technology has a significant role to play in the future of education, particularly as institutions seek to attract more international students and working professionals who are continuing their education. Education technology (EdTech) solutions simultaneously grew and evolved from its original applications to enable more immersive and interactive experiences for students regardless of where they were located.
Many of these EdTech solutions were beginning to take hold in Southeast Asia, supported by the growth of the internet economy, in recent years. This has helped to address issues such as access to the internet and electronic devices, such as tablets and laptops, traffic congestion and cost. By contrast, Singapore has led the way, both regionally and globally, in the adoption of technologies to improve learning management and classroom instruction, and the development of EdTech startups.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic this year has forced the issue of remote learning and accelerated the adoption of online-based learning modules across the region. This school year, Singapore's higher education institutions and polytechnics are committed to delivering hybrid learning that mixes safe and managed in-person instruction for practical and lab sessions with online instruction for large-scale lectures, based on guidelines from the Ministry of Education (MoE). Singapore Management University, for example, intends to create more hybrid courses for the new school year, but most courses will still be conducted face-to-face.
As the world cautiously emerges from the disruption to education systems resulting from the pandemic, EdTech solutions can help higher education and continuing learning institutions elevate their programmes to deliver virtual learning experiences that have a meaningful impact on students' education. Additionally, by committing to providing online learning models, higher learning institutions will ensure that classes can continue fully online if necessary.
Adapting to changes in education
In recent years, university students and professionals continuing their education have responded to hybrid teaching models that offer the flexibility to fulfil obligations at home and in the workplace while pursuing their education remotely. Educational institutions saw this as an opportunity to extend the courses of renowned professors and specialist instructors to students as well as invite guest lecturers from anywhere in the world, no longer limiting training to a physical location. This has created valuable new revenue streams and opportunities to provide better class experiences.
However, as distance learning becomes more popular, learning sessions must be a more engaging, collaborative and emotionally fulfilling experience for students. Traditional forms of remote learning relied on conventional forms of digital communication, such as email, conference calls and one-way video presentations, but these methods limit students’ ability to interact as a group. The ‘read and learn’ asynchronous learning structure employed in these forms of remote learning reduces mental stimulation and often produces a mediocre learning experience. People are social by nature and need emotional cues to encourage curiosity and an openness to new ideas and concepts, which can only be achieved in a fully interactive setting with peers and educators.
Creating immersive, virtual learning experiences
There is a growing interest in technology solutions that offer synchronous learning, in which students and teachers actively engage with each other in a collaborative, real-time, virtual environment. New virtual classroom solutions use an in-classroom video wall and audio-visual streaming tools to enable teachers to communicate with students individually, or as a group, and take part in a true two-way dialogue during sessions.
Remote participants can engage and collaborate in real-time with their peers and teachers, similar to a physical classroom, from anywhere in the world. Distance learning does not have to be a second-class version of teaching. It can complement traditional teaching and open new ways of improving the experience for the teacher and student. Virtual classroom solutions that enable synchronous learning may become essential for Singapore's higher education institutions in this new academic year, and subsequent years post COVID-19 to remain competitive in the higher education market.
With economic difficulties looming in Singapore, and around the world, educational institutions have an opportunity to rethink how technology can enhance students' experiences and attract professionals interested in continuing their education to improve their career prospects. Delivering superior virtual learning experiences during this time can ensure that high-quality education continues and that institutions can adapt quickly to any potential disruptions the future has in store.
Marc Alexis Rémond, Vice President - Sales, Meeting and Learning eXperiences, Barco Asia Pacific is a seasoned professional with 20 years of experience in selling and marketing technology products and providing consultancy services. He is recognized as an Industry expert and aids businesses, governments and educational institutes in accelerating innovation, increasing employee efficiency and improving satisfaction through unified communication and video collaboration. He has authored technology blogs and articles and spoken at industry conferences on Digital Transformation and the Future of the Workplace.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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