Tecnológico de MonterreyDigital Migration in Five Steps

Digital Migration in Five Steps

Digital Migration in Five Steps

Rodrigo Ponce DíazMay 4, 2020

Before COVID-19, online education was optional, today is practically mandatory.

Changing from face-to-face instruction in the classroom to video conferences and online classes is complicated if we consider that much of the success depends on the tech skills that a teacher has and how comfortable she or he feels using technology. However, the current situation that we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic has confronted us with a radical change: we have had to adjust from face-to-face and timed education to distance education in a week without skimping on the quality of teaching and academic reach. In this article, I propose five necessary steps to succeed in this conversion.

The history of distance education began around 1700 with correspondence education [1]. Later, there were classes broadcast on radio and television, eventually culminating in online, self-learning courses without the interaction of a teacher, and hybrid courses with occasional interactions with the instructor and self-directed online activities. The advantage that we had before COVID-19 is that these modalities were optional. The downside is that online education today is practically mandatory for students to advance in their studies, and we do not know exactly how much longer we will continue in this modality.

Five essential steps for digital migration in education

Planning for digital learning

Planning should begin with the expected learning in mind. A digital document must be created with the learning sequence, as well as the activities that the students will have to do with precise instructions. Use videos with theoretical content or explanations, presentations, or internet links to reliable sources of information. All this content must be placed on a platform accessible to the student at any time. A repository is required for the delivery and evaluation of activities. It can be a cost-effective platform like Canvas(1), Blackboard(2), and Moodle(3).  Also, possible would be free access platforms such as Schoology(4) or Google Classroom(5). This will allow having the material orderly and easily accessible. 

Time for the synchronous session

The classroom becomes a virtual classroom using platforms such as Zoom(6), Hangouts(7), Skype(8), and Microsoft Teams(9), where the teacher can interact with students in real-time. The time used in face-to-face sessions should be converted to appropriate times for remote sessions, considering the following: in-person students have greater physical, visual, and interactive mobility with other colleagues. In contrast, in a remote session, the concentration is focused on a screen, and mobility is wholly lost. Therefore, online lessons should be shorter and coupled with activities designed to encourage and stimulate the students' learning. It is important to remember that in addition to your subject, students are taking other classes with the same characteristics.

Interactions with the students

Interaction should occur in all online sessions, not only synchronously but also asynchronously, to know the students' progress and difficulties. Real-time, interactive platforms like Menti(10) or Kahoot!(11) allow the teacher to throw out a question to students and get immediate answers. Platforms such as EDpuzzle(12) allow the teacher to monitor the editing of videos and ask students questions to know their progress. Google Classroom allows receiving activities and sending feedback to students.

Digital stimulation is not everything

Similar to the duration of a remote session, the stimuli that the student receives from a screen must be complemented by activities where the student can develop manual, writing, and motor skills as well as verbal communication and organizational skills. It is vitally important to design different time segments within the session, especially when the time allotted to the meeting is longer than one hour. If the course is daily, consider one or two sessions of the week in which students do individual or team activities where the teacher is only a guide or advisor.

Assessment beyond online exams

The standard solution for online evaluation is the use of technology platforms to develop multiple-choice exams, sentence completions, and true-or-false questions. These are relatively easy to create on(1-5) digital platforms, as well as Google Forms(13) and Socrative(14). My suggestion is to go further and find other assessment tools where the student demonstrates other skills and learning, not necessarily through a test. For example, virtual labs, online collaborative work, and the creation of physical and digital learning products.

As you may have noticed, these five steps represent the planning and execution steps that every teacher does for a face-to-face class. The difference is to become aware of the new digital learning environment, where the interaction between the same students and the teacher is limited by physical mobility and the fatigue that comes with attention to a screen. Therefore, there is a need to adjust our already designed face-to-face sequences.

The five steps to digital conversion in practice

Before the pandemic, for my Physics class, I had already followed the five steps in isolation; however, my great challenge was to unify them. Below, I share with you how I did it. As an example, I took a topic from my class; for the rest of the themes, I replicated the same idea.

To begin my Digital Planning on the topic of Nuclear Physics, I opened my course in Blackboard to review the files with the digital activities of each of the subtopics. I decided to select the essential and basic concepts, such as Nuclear Energy and how to calculate it generally, the types of radiation, and the types of nuclear reactions. I omitted those repetitive activities like the calculation of nuclear energy over again that does not add value to the class. Finally, I renamed and reorganized the class calendar again to make it available to the students.

I have designed the activities by steps, initiating a scenario approach, or review of concepts. I made a question about calculating a fundamental variable, such as the initial and final mass of a nuclear reaction, a second calculation about the mass defect, and, finally, an estimation about the atomic energy from a reaction or decay. My goal is to show the process of problem-solving in each topic and, at the same time, to remember theoretical concepts during the solution of an activity. I have the goal of creating self-directed activities so that the more advanced students can solve them with the least support of the teacher.

Because the frequency of my class is daily, and I reassigned the time of the synchronous session, for this reason, I considered 40-minute sessions, alternating the lecturing with the performance of the activities. All the meetings would be through Zoom, but I also opened another channel of interaction with my students through the Remid app(15), where they can contact me for questions or send notices to the whole group at any time.

For the theoretical explanation of the topic of Nuclear Physics, I used PowerPoint presentations and videos in Edpuzzle(12), these were already used in my face-to-face class. I was also able to share with my student's simulations of nuclear decay(16) and nuclear reactions(17) on the University of Colorado page(18). The same digital environment allowed me to access online pages to show the implications of nuclear physics with the Chernobyl(19) series and show the experiments and nuclear projects in institutions such as CERN(20), making the subject more exciting and meaningful.

To change the Digital Stimulus, I designed a practice activity for the students to do at home using a gridded sheet and 100 lentils. As an experiment guide, I recorded a video(21)  and shared it with them. We could not have radioactive material, but with this simple experiment, we modeled the decay of radioactive lentils. Finally, for the evaluation, I used the Blackboard platform for an exam with multiple-choice, open questions, and numerical exercises. I added an individual activity called "Virtual laboratory at home" as part of the evaluation, where, using the nuclear decay simulator(16), they solved a situation raised in a digital archive, considering some of the learning objectives of Nuclear Physics. 

In short, the new teaching integrates technology. We are learning new ways to interact and use digital communication technologies. I invite you to take this time as a significant challenge to integrate these new technologies fully and avoid turning them into a barrier in the teaching-learning process; on the contrary, use them to enhance the learning for the future of our students.

List of technological tools described in this article

  1. Canvas
  2. Blackboard
  3. Moodle  
  4. Schoology
  5. Google Classroom
  6. Zoom
  7. Hangouts
  8. Skype
  9. Microsoft Teams
  10. Menti
  11. Kahoot
  12. Edpuzzle
  13. Google Forms
  14. Socrative
  15. Remind
  16. Nuclear Decay Simulator
  17. Nuclear Reaction Simulator
  18. PHET
  19. Chernobyl series
  20. CERN
  21. Radioactive lentils

About the author

Rodrigo Ponce Díaz (rponce@tec.mx) is the director of PrepaTec Eugenio Garza Lagüera. He teaches the Physics class in the International Baccalaureate program and holds a Ph.D. in Information and Communications Technologies from Tecnológico de Monterrey. He has directed Educational Innovation projects at Tecnologico de Monterrey and has participated as a presenter at National and International Congresses about Educational Innovation.


[1] Harting, Kathleen; Erthal, Margaret, "History of Distance Learning," J. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal; Morehead Vol. 23, Issue 1, (Spring 2005): 35-44

Brought to you by