The New Phygital Learning Experience.11th December 2020
Bridging the divide between the physical and digital environment; Education in the times of COVID
After many months of uncertainty in the HE/FE world, the bridging of physical and digital engagement has never been so important. COVID has changed the way we live, work and learn, forcing a change in the landscape for many universities and colleges. The pandemic has accelerated most digitalisation initiatives and is starting to deliver real change.
Demand for online learning continues to surge as institutes look to ensure academic continuity for students though remote teaching. Many have, in some form, adapted to virtual learning despite being unprepared for such an abrupt shift. The sudden move to virtual has seen an increased focus on technology such as AI-powered chatbots, augmented reality (AR), hyper-personalisation, gamification & secure video interactions.
Not all solutions that were implemented were as complete as they could have been, with hindsight, and many institutions cited a lack of government guidance as a significant factor in determining how and to what extent they could or should blend physical and digital delivery.
Those colleges and universities that sought to implement policies to preserve traditional learning methods (social distancing, hand wash stations, face masks, etc.) are now playing catch up to those that embraced the digital transformation.
The early adopters of ‘the new normal’ have experienced many advantages to their establishment’s working practices, course delivery and student engagement. This is because, when done well, online learning is highly personalised, much more that traditional physical learning.
A lecture delivered digitally can be paused by the student; they can rewind sections or rewind the entire thing and repeat the lesson from the start. Students with different learning needs can therefore experience an equality in learning that has never before been offered at scale.
Digital environments offer other accessibility advantages from different coloured backgrounds (dyslexia, Irlen’s), larger text, text-to-speech readers, language options and many other advantages.
The marking process can be accelerated when submissions are digital and can even be automated in some aspects such as a plagiarism checker. Marks can be delivered to students more rapidly improving satisfaction and engagement. It also allows for any issues that are identified to be addressed early promoting retention.
A blended approach not only greatly improves student experience, but it also enables institutions to adopt a flexible position that can continue to deliver learning to students into the future regardless of what is going on in the wider world.
Post COVID-19 lies an unknown landscape for education. Will we return to fully open – fully physical campuses? It is hard to say for sure, but it is a good bet that the many advantages of digital will remain a fixture of HE/FE even if there is a large-scale return to face-to-face course delivery.
If the pandemic has demonstrated anything for education establishments, it is that they are not immune to market pressures and shifting landscapes and must plan for the future with adaptability in mind.
Learn more about the phygital philosophy for education and how the digital campus can coexist seamlessly with the physical while boosting every aspect of the student journey whether in lockdown or not.
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