Expert Tips: Transitioning to Online Learning

By: Danielle Chazen

University leaders are currently being charged with continuing to provide coursework to students, but limiting all face-to-face interactions to keep their students safe. However, many of these professors have never taught in virtual environments prior. They’re actively seeking actionable tips and knowledge on how to keep their students engaged while learning remotely.

The challenge right now is ensuring that new instructors are quickly briefed on best practices, instructional models and teaching techniques to ensure they can transition their on-site classes to online classes,” said Nathan Arora, Chief Business Officer of YuJa.

We’ve enlisted the guidance of leaders at YuJa, as well as Mediasite, Kaltura and Panopto, to provide insights on the ongoing crisis and how best to address the quick transition to online.
woman standing beside a table with a glass of milk looking at her laptop

Don’t be intimidated by video

“Video has been a key part of education for years now, especially for lecture capture, video reference libraries, and the “flipped classroom” model, where professors convey most of the content with a video, and then use the contact hours to review, answer questions, etc,” said Jeff Rubenstein, VP Sales, Kaltura.

Fully online schools have typically made much more use of video, both asynchronously (videos watched anywhere, anytime) and synchronously (video in a virtual classroom space for live classes, office hours, and student collaboration), he said.

“While most higher-ed students have been using these tools for years in their social lives, many professors are not used to teaching in this way, and need support to make the transition,” Rubinstein continued.

For content to be delivered effectively online, some of the content needs to be rethought. Rubinstein suggests considering live demonstrations or performances. These are often best delivered by having the professor video their performance, and then reviewing that video real-time together inside a virtual classroom.

Either way, video only provides schools with another means of effective engagement with students who are accustomed to regular consumption of video and have on-demand expectations of it due to streaming platforms like Netflix.

woman sitting on the floor leaning on a sofa working on her laptop

Consider the positives

Incorporating more video and online elements into teaching is something many professors have been aiming to implement, but perhaps never got around to experimenting with. While the current situation is far from ideal, consider viewing it as a time to test and explore video opportunities and technologies you’ve always wanted to try.

YuJa is currently seeing a 3-4x surge in the volume of content being recorded, streamed and distributed, Arora said.

“Our video platform, similar to Netflix, is designed to elastically scale and contract to prevailing load, so this is an interesting opportunity to see something borne out of research. One of our founders is a Professor in distributed and parallel systems so COVID-19 is a unique opportunity for us to validate theoretical exercises we have planned and tested for,” he said.

Taking opportunities to poll students and gain metrics on different methods of engagement could prove to be helpful in the long run once schools transition back to offline settings. Having new strategies to embed into the offline learning process could provide students who learn differently with additional ways to engage with content and increase academic performance as a result.

For example, when closed captions are offered on course videos, they have been proven to increase the engagement and retention of all students since many individuals learn better when information is presented both audibly and visually.

view from the top of a woman working on her laptop sitting on a sofa

Top considerations for taking courses online

While video is the key component for keeping classes going during mandated social distancing, there are some best practices to consider for using it in online learning settings.

“Streaming video spans the time, distance and space limits that are dramatic factors when preparing for outbreaks like this on today’s scale,” said Bill Cherne, VP Customer Success & Support, Sonic Foundry, maker of Mediasite.

Cherne and Mediasite suggest these tips for taking courses online:

  • Take inventory. Schools should look at what academic video content they already have that can be reused. Faculty can use previously-recorded lectures in their entirety or edit them into micro-lessons and then use video- and web-conferencing technology to facilitate collaborative discussions about them. This is commonly referred to as flipped instruction.
  • Prioritize. Find a video initiative that provides the biggest ROI. For example, will personal capture boost efficiency for faculty?
  • Aim for engagement. Take into account the most effective and engaging way to share content. Is it video only, video with slides, multiple synchronized videos and do these need to be shown live or on-demand?
  • Think about infrastructure. Consider your resources. Can your infrastructure support the dramatic increase in video creation and consumption? Are bandwidth requirements different for internal and external users? Do you have staff with video skills to produce quality video or guide users on video-creation best practices? Is your IT staff available to help implement your video continuity plan or should you rely on outside services?
  • Consider the cloud. A cloud-based approach to video management provides a worry-free option for streaming and content management projects of any size. Consider a hosted option if you lack the infrastructure or support resources or need to support large audiences of viewers.

man wearing a headset working on his laptop on a table

Instructor and colleague collaboration is key

Mike Rich, Head of Business Development at Panopto, said his team has been producing multiple resources to underscore the shift occurring and the overall needs of the higher education market.

In addition to meeting the increased need for video and streaming capabilities to support students, Panopto leaders are also helping to support colleagues at institutions and enterprises with recordings of online meetings and training sessions.

Organizations, particularly instructors, who now depend on the rapid exchange of information for best online teaching tips and expertise are using Panopto to make it easier to reference key moments in meetings. On-demand recordings are also helping colleagues who can’t join these important sessions live.

“This transition to online-first models has increased leaders’ focus on supporting their employees with easy access to recordings, but businesses need to ensure recordings will be automatically and securely shared with exactly the right audience.”

Panopto’s video knowledge platform can be used as the solution to ensure consistent collaboration and communication between industry leadership and their teams of professors. Consolidating recorded meetings, how-to videos, and video training all located within a secure, searchable library of corporate knowledge is critical as institutions undergo these quick changes.

Address inclusivity and other potential remote learning scenarios

It’s important to ensure that you’re continuing to abide by the requirements of the ADA and offering accessible online materials to students who rely on them. Verbit provides integrations with all of the platforms mentioned to drive engagement and inclusion of students learning remotely.

Our connection to these platforms, as well as our new integration with Zoom, helps to ensure that materials continue to be accessible. Transcripts of online lectures and captions on videos can help in a variety of scenarios outside of disabilities as well. Perhaps students are learning in shared spaces with roommates and can’t play course audio out loud. Captions can come to the rescue. Perhaps the Wi-Fi in students’ apartment buildings is spotty while they’re watching live lectures. Real-time transcripts can serve as a written record to make sure students don’t miss what the professor has said, while also providing them with an opportunity to take notes throughout the session.

Feel free to reach out to us if you need help making a smooth transition to online or would like to be personally connected with one of our partners.