As the modern world faces a global pandemic, the issue of distance education started to arise. Many institutions appeared to be unprepared or unequipped to switch to online education, making the educational process less enriching for students and more challenging for the teachers. The main reason for this was the urgency of the issue, which did not allow the staff to prepare thoroughly. However, the prompt institutional response to the system failure allowed the staff to overcome the issue. The institutional facilities’ assessment is now used to estimate the overall faculty and students’ readiness to engage in online education and improve the studying process. The distance education administrator gave an overview of the current status of the distance education, regarding the institutional readiness with an insight in the future during the interview about NSU’s implementation of distance education.
Current Status of the Distance Education Program
Distance education administrator overviews the course of distance education for higher education students in the current conditions of COVID-19 safety measures. The pandemic forced many institutions worldwide to unite to support global welfare and change classes’ format to ensure the students’ health. Teachers can no longer stick to the old educational tactics of lecturing and collaborating with students in the classroom. They have to overcome the challenge by using technology and online platforms to communicate with the students. This situation forced the institutions to be creative and find ways to use technological advances to go through the COVID-19 pandemic. It becomes the standard around the world that our institution has to follow too.
The current state of distance education program is being carefully analyzed and reflected in the appearing changes. Data collection on students’ satisfaction with the new system and the faculty’s opinion allows the institution to take measures when necessary and fix the mistakes. New learning approaches arise as e-learning becomes more and more common. It covers the whole institution providing distance education for students, staff members, and even directory.
The distance learning program gives many benefits for minorities, the underprivileged, and people with little time daily to learn. The following system lets the students pass the courses anywhere at any time of the day. It gives a great advantage for better learning and money-saving for students who commute to school. Distance education also allows students with disabilities to access education when they are not physically able to attend a course on campus. The parents with children depending on them or working students can study when they have the time without skipping classes.
The technical challenges both for students and staff appear the biggest problem in distance learning, even in the modern computerized world. The technological faculty works on adapting the system for universal use. The NSU help desk and numerous technological policies that list the system requirements and guidelines also help overcome the problem. Students may also often feel difficulty understanding material when presented online due to the lack of familiarity with the system. However, as the university provides more and more guidelines, the students overcome the following challenge.
The distance education program launching was a challenging task, mainly because of the sudden nature of the transition to online education. The vast number of courses needed to be urgently adapted to the online platforms, and teachers not used to technology had to be educated on the technical basics (Simonson et al., 2015). The platforms were not always ready and able to hold so many instant connections, so there was much work for the technical department. The amount of data to transfer was quite enormous, too. Not only the system and people appeared not ready for a newly introduced distance education, but the resources themselves as well. Not all information was available for online use, especially the one stored in the teachers’ offices for ages. The need for optimizing and technologization of a considerable amount of information becomes necessary for further expansion.
Students now have the ability to take in-person classes remotely. The distance education program today is provided via Zoom and Microsoft Teams platforms. The school is also working on adding an E-learning program that uses Canvas or Microsoft Teams’ virtual platform. It is supposed to be an additional service aimed to reinforce students’ learning and accessible online education (Simonson et al., 2015). The services for renting and buying books also work online and provide students with all the necessary learning materials. All these services and platforms make it possible to completely shift to distance education systems except for the applied fields of study. They require practical skills to be learned in class, such as particular laboratory and clinical components.
The traditional educational system curriculum significantly differs from the distance education program. Many typical activities such as lecturing do not suit the online learning systems and require the introduction of new teaching methods. It appeared to be incredibly difficult for the professors who have been teaching face-to-face classes for years. The use of technology was still challenging for them, but the classes now resume online with the technical assistance. Not many professors were entirely eager to teach only online classes, but in the condition of COVID-19 spread, there was no other choice left. The staff undergoes special training and follows instructions to better adapt to the online educational system.
The feedback from educating instructors is predominantly positive despite all the challenges. The professors enjoy having more time with their family while staying at home. It also motivates many staff members who also need to adapt or even reinvent their distance education courses. Many professors became more technically savvy and now suggest new ways of innovation in the online learning process. The overall experience of transitioning to distance learning can be described as optimistic.
All students can sign up for taking most in-person classes remotely to feel safer. The students of graduate and professional programs are typically required to attend in-person sessions in health professions and athletics courses. However, the institution understands the health care concerns and respects the personal choice, so remote education is still possible for all majors this fall. The curriculum is adapted to involve the students in the learning process to a greater degree through technology. The distance education enforces student-centered discussions as a driving educational force instead of the teacher-centered lecturing in the classroom (Willingham, 2008). This makes the students more accountable learners and increases engagement and critical thinking in the learning process, even online. The multipronged approach to recruitment with the ability to have remote education allowed to drastically increase enrollment during the past five years. Distance education allows students worldwide to access to quality education. The students appear to be content with the level of education as the retention rate also soared. The statistics show very encouraging results keeping us working hard on achieving the best for the students.
However, the students’ feedback is not always as optimistic, which shows the direction to move in. In the conditions of online education, students often complain about the quality of internet connection that may prevent them from having an online session or submitting works. Unfortunately, the following issue can only be fixed on campus, but the university is doing everything possible to provide access to the tools for all the students. The difficulty in accessing the platforms, on the other hand, is usually the platform’s fault due to a large number of simultaneous sessions. The university works on creating a sustainable online environment for students to have equal access to all the services.
The institutions readily accept the changes and introduce the new policies to implement distance education. NSU provides special students, faculty, and staff safety guidelines during the new semester at school. The present-day shared responsibility and accountability resolutions are being implemented in the new programs to increase the students’ awareness of the situation. The institution primarily follows the local, state, and federal orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding remote learning. The current COVID-19 requires the implementation of innovations in the field of online education. NSU itself works on establishing distance education and develops the course in instructional technology and distance education, which allows the students to become modern educators in the evolving world of technology. The latest sources at NSU that are available online present the students with an opportunity to become practicing professionals innovating the field.
The current pressure to switch to distance education programs that institutions experience because of the COVID-19 spread also has its benefits. The necessity to have a platform that unites all students and gives access to education worldwide becomes apparent. The world grows increasingly technological, and it appears no longer possible to disregard online education benefits. The future education would probably go partially or wholly online, so it is vital to go with the innovation.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. M. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.). Information Age Publishing, Inc.
Willingham, D. T. (2008). Critical thinking: Why is it so hard to teach? Arts education policy review, 109(4), 21-32. Web.