D2L APACShort courses, blended learning and responding to Covid-19

Short courses, blended learning and responding to Covid-19

Victoria University’s block-learning model complemented its learning-management system to deliver a ‘seamless’ transition during lockdown

As Covid-19 forced universities to transition from classrooms to remote learning within weeks, it was those with a signature offering, coupled with savvy use of digital platforms, that were best equipped to undergo further digital transformation.

Speaking at THE Live ANZ 2020, Tony Maguire, regional director of D2L, which powers the learning-management system Brightspace, explained: “Those institutions that had already given a lot of thought to the way they used technology to enable their signature experience, and who had thought about what that signature experience is...have done well.”

Victoria University was one such institution. Over the past four years, VU has been rolling out a block-learning model – where students learn one subject for four weeks before moving on to the next – in a bid to improve student retention and results.

Trish McCluskey, VU’s interim pro-vice-chancellor of teaching and learning, said that the model was focused on “ensuring that students are engaged, connected, feeling that they are seen by their academic, and that things are structured in such a way that scaffolds learning and enables them to focus on the learning and the outcomes”.

When Covid-19 struck, McCluskey said the transition to remote learning at VU was surprisingly seamless. Having just one subject to focus on – and one academic to work with as they navigated Zoom for the first time – suited students.

VU’s course units had been designed with D2L’s Brightspace platform and integrated into classroom learning. “Everything was digital in the classroom in the face-to-face [teaching model], but the focus wasn’t on the digital. The focus was on the connection and the underpinning resources that were available for students to navigate through at their own time,” McCluskey said.

Those digital resources have remained invaluable, with academics using them to engage with students and check on their progress. All that has changed is that students now interact with academics through Zoom, instead of in person.

Maguire added that learning-management systems such as Brightspace have “empowered universities to move anywhere across the continuum” from face to face to remote learning. “If you’ve got the right vision and planning in place, the way in which you deploy and utilise technology only supports success – no matter what the dynamic and fluid future’s going to look like.” 

Watch the entire discussion from THE Live ANZ 2020 above or on the Times Higher Education YouTube channel. Access all of THE Live ANZ on-demand here.

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