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Fira Barcelona, Gran Vía
31 Jan - 03 Feb 2023

Hybrid learning takes centre stageDigital Learning Summit: Content Chair interview

ISE’s Digital Learning Summit comes after a period of enormous transformation in the world of education technology. Here content chair Gill Ferrell discusses the way forward, and how the Summit is going to ‘Build Back Hybrid’.

education

What has happened in digital learning since ISE 2020?

Since the AVIXA Higher Education AV Conference in 2020 we have taken a long road to Barcelona and a shortcut to digital transformation.

The digital transformation of education is something we’ve talked about for a few years – always in the future tense – as something we can achieve once we have sorted out the issues of scalability and culture change and gotten a little better at user experience (UX) design.

It is familiar for the ISE audience to feel we’re on a journey. ISE’s education conferences have been somewhere we can come together as a learning community and act as critical friends to one another’s work in progress.

When Storm Kiera blew us out of Amsterdam in 2020, our baggage was stuffed with hints and tips, and a generous allowance of inspiration, to feed into our ambitious, but realistic, strategies and our agile, but well-planned, projects. We had identified hot topics and common challenges – the programme for next time could almost write itself.
However, during the slightly-longer-than-expected journey south, digital transformation happened!

It happened suddenly. All the known issues, plus some new ones, had to be faced at once and face them we did, with outstanding success. While production lines halted and shops pulled down their shutters, learning didn’t stop. Schools and universities didn’t close: only their buildings did. Higher education, in particular, faced a unique set of pressures with the responsibility to assess students in the medical professions and judge their competence to be in the front line of fighting the pandemic within a few weeks of lockdowns beginning.

What are the lessons learned and the biggest surprises from recent experiences of digital learning?

The transformation wasn’t easy. Education providers didn’t all start from the same baseline. Those who had already invested in their digital infrastructure and who took a strategic approach to selecting tools and creating an ecosystem based on open standards, were in a better position but still faced a learning curve. We learned lessons about equity of access, about learning design and about interoperability.

There were surprises along the way. 2020 was the year that Zoom became a verb and the education sector didn’t see it coming. Nobody would have predicted that Zoom would take on all the enterprise-level platforms to become a front runner in tools supporting learning throughout the pandemic.

Student attainment levels were unexpectedly high. When forced to move away from traditional unseen exams to more authentic assessment scenarios (often making good use of video), many students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, performed better.

Some students felt better supported by, and connected to, their teachers in the digital sphere than in large, impersonal lecture settings. Analytics helped track engagement and progress as an indicator of well-being in ways that resembled big mother rather than Big Brother.

What are the emerging trends in learning and teaching?

We have been forced to think long and hard about the real value of face-to-face interactions in supporting learning. Everyone is keen to get back on campus and back in the classroom but the genie is out of the bottle. We have already started to question what kinds of activity require face-to-face contact and what kinds of activity might be better scaffolded and supported using digital tools. With travel restrictions, quarantine and social distancing rules, we had to adapt to cohorts learning to the same timetable with only partial co-location. Hybrid learning has arrived.

Out of necessity grows opportunity. Learning providers are realising that the shift to hybrid can have long-term benefits. Hybrid solutions offer a way to manage increases in both class size and real estate costs, to support the sustainability agenda and to better meet the needs of learners who find it difficult to combine study with work and family responsibilities.

And so, the scene is set for the Digital Learning Summit 2022.

What opportunities and challenges do you see for AV in digital learning?

I’m not hearing any learning providers say they think things will go back to exactly how they were before. Hybrid modes of learning are here to stay. That’s why the theme of the Summit is ‘Build Back Hybrid’.

Hybrid is different to what we call ‘blended’ learning. Blended learning is sometimes face-to-face and sometimes using digital tools and resources. Hybrid is where physical and virtual combine in the same learning activity.

Hybrid is a new paradigm for AV in education and for the design of physical learning spaces. To date AV services have either fallen into the category of AV that allows you to see and hear and interact in physical learning spaces (particularly large group spaces), or AV that supports online learning and is focused towards creating and serving up content for asynchronous consumption.

Now we are looking to create interactions where remote and on-site participants learn together and experience the same visibility and sound quality. It is no longer enough that AV enables learners to see and hear the teacher; they all need to be able to see, hear and interact with one another.

In this category of hybrid experiences, I include augmented (AR), mixed (MR) and extended reality (XR) supported by a range of apps, devices and wearables.

What can we expect from the Digital Learning Summit?

The transformation in learning is a big shift to get to grips with and there are a lot of challenges to be faced. As you might expect from an ISE summit, we’re onto it!
Without giving too much away at this stage, we’ve got a great line-up for you.

We’ll have Zoom (with us in real life) to give us an inside view of their success and some insights into the product roadmap as they position themselves at the heart of the learning ecosystem.

We have some great success stories of universities developing creative solutions to deliver hybrid learning at scale.

We’ll be looking at how AR, MR and XR are helping deliver everything from just-in-time learning to more authentic assessment.

And we’ll still be a supportive and friendly learning community.

Be part of the transformation and support the learning community by booking onto the Digital Learning Summit here.

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