When the majority of schools moved online, many teachers and students had to adapt to an unfamiliar world of distance learning. However, distance learning was growing long before the pandemic and 59% of higher educational institutions plan to continue all or some of their emergency remote learning offerings after restrictions come to an end.

The rapid increase in online learning, the tools that make it possible and the teachers that captured their students’ attention from miles away helped to highlight the benefits of flexible instruction. Verbit is celebrating National Distance Learning Week by recognizing the wealth of potential this format offers and honoring the educators whose creative strategies for supporting their students influence the future of education.

Remote Learning Promotes Inclusivity

One of the key benefits of distance learning is that it allows students to pursue education when they can’t attend classes in person because they live too far from campus or have irregular work schedules. Individuals juggling careers and families can leverage the flexibility that distance learning offers to complete an advanced degree, often at their own pace.

Here are a few statistics that highlight the diversity of online learners:

-About half of online learners are married with children under 18
-40% of online undergraduate students have full-time jobs
-Online colleges enroll more African Americans and low-income students than do in-person programs
-Distance learners are older than traditional students
-17% of distance learners are in the military, spouses or children of a member of the military, or veterans

Distance learning also removes barriers and can make it easier for students to participate from different places around the world. This means that virtual classes can include perspectives from diverse voices and connect people who would not have otherwise crossed paths. Educators can reach even wider audiences by adding translation services to their content. Tools like Verbit’s automatic translation are just one example of technology that can make distance learning more inclusive and accessible.

Accessibility Tips for Remote Learners

Distance learning opportunities should never exclude students with disabilities. Fortunately, technology offers innovative accessibility solutions. Verbit’s live captioning services work in real-time so that students who are Deaf or hard of hearing can participate in their remote courses. Audio description technology also ensures that video content never excludes blind learners. Not only are these features beneficial to learners with disabilities, but research also shows that tools like real-time captions are a valuable resource for engaging all students.

Creative Teachers Find Opportunity in Distance Learning

Educators have some strategies that help their students keep focused while learning online. Here are a few tips to ensure students get the most out of their distance learning experience.

Offer Opportunities to Connect

Distance learning can make students feel less connected to their instructors and fellow students. Teachers can combat this disconnectedness by encouraging interactive tasks and setting up video calls to meet face-to-face, albeit virtually. Letting students know that they aren’t alone on their learning journey will improve their experience.

Use Games and Other Interactive Tools

Gamified learning improves engagement – whether the student is in grammar school, university or a professional. One survey showed that 80% of higher education students would be more productive if their instructor made lessons like games. Interactive quizzes and surveys that ask students’ opinions foster participation and help students take an active role in their learning.

Use Transcripts to Keep Records

Transcriptions of lectures and meetings serve as a helpful resource when students review information. By transcribing course content, educators avoid making learners feel the need to keep constant notes. This approach allows students to participate in the moment rather than struggling to jot down what they are hearing.

Be Flexible and Compassionate

Distance learning works well for some students and is a challenge for others. Some learners will struggle to stay engaged, and the instructor needs to identify those individuals to offer them additional support.

Make Sure Students Understand Expectations

Instructors set the tone for online learning. If the teacher wants students to use their cameras, they should inform them of the expectation from the start. However, some students may feel uncomfortable with their camera on all the time and may not want their classmates and teachers to see their homes. Features like Zoom’s blur capabilities may help in these situations, and instructors may wish to tell classes about those options to avoid causing anxiety.

Implementing strategies that help students get the most out of distance learning will give them the necessary skills for future careers.

Preparing for the Real World

For many educators and students, distance learning may still feel new and unfamiliar. However, it’s important to remember that connecting online and using technology to collaborate with others is essential in today’s workforce. Students who use distance learning as a part of their educational journey can promote their experiences when looking for job opportunities. Predictions indicate that the post-Covid workforce will have 4x as many work-from-home days as before the pandemic. Distance learning can train students on how to communicate and collaborate in this workplace environment.

Verbit provides captioning, transcription, translation and audio description services that support distance learners. For more information about how our innovative solutions promote accessibility and engagement, contact Verbit.