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Evidence to Support Emergency Remote Teaching in Higher Ed
Synchronous and asynchronous classes. Threads. Blogs. If these terms weren’t top of mind for higher education instructors before, they surely are now as they’re front and center in many lesson plans created in response to COVID-19. But even after moving to emergency remote teaching, many college instructors are still asking for clear guidance on what works to support distance learning among their students.
Recently, Abt’s Sarah Costelloe, Ph.D., moderated a webinar that brought together technical experts who developed evidence-based technology recommendations for distance learning. Titled the Using Technology to Support Postsecondary Student Learning Practice Guide, the practice guide featured in the webinar was supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences under the What Works Clearinghouse Postsecondary Education and Postsecondary Preparation Evidence Reporting (WWC-PEPPER) contract.
“Emergency remote teaching has meant educators had to shift quickly,” said Costelloe. “We know some institutions plan to offer summer and fall classes through distance education, and they face many options and decisions, whether they’re new to online learning or not.”
Webinar speakers Dr. Nada Dabbagh, from George Mason University; Dr. M.J. Bishop, from the University System of Maryland; and Dr. Anthony Picciano, from Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center, discussed five recommendations, including how to personalize distance learning to address the varied ways students learn.
The recommendations covered:
Communication and collaboration tools to increase interaction among students and between students and instructors.
Varied, personalized, and readily available digital resources to design and deliver instructional content.
Technology that models and fosters self-regulated learning strategies.
Technology to provide timely and targeted feedback on student performance.
Simulation technologies that help students engage in complex problem-solving.
Along with these tips, the speakers gave ideas for ways to overcome common distance learning obstacles, such as language and Internet access barriers. Sending class assignments to all students at the same time each day or week, and using learning management systems to track student progress were among the tips Dr. Dabbagh suggested when recounting ways technology can foster self-regulated learning.
Dr. Bishop advised instructors to incorporate assessments early on in their distance learning classes, particularly in the coming fall semester. These assessments, she advised, can help inform how a course syllabus might be revised to cover material students did not fully master during the spring 2020 session, when COVID-19 forced most schools to move to emergency remote teaching and learning.
“You need to have the pedagogy to drive the technology and not the other way around,” said Dr. Picciano. “I would strongly urge that, if you're designing your online environment, you identify what are your goals, and then apply the right tool for that. I believe you should vary your instruction [based on your goals and students]. Use different tools. The Internet of 2022 is not the Internet of 2001. All these tools are available, they are relatively reliable, and they are much easier to use.”