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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Harvey, Digital Learning and Institutional Resilience | Inside Higher Ed - Technology and Learning

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"A hypothesis about a surprising digital dividend" argues Dr. Joshua Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL).

Technology and Learning

How could the news about Harvey possibly be anything but terrible?  At this writing, the death toll from Harvey now stands at 60.  The cost estimates for economic impact of Harvey run between $70 and $108 billion, and will no doubt go much higher.  

From a higher ed perspective (and is there really any other perspective that matters?), Harvey seems like a catastrophe.  An 8/31 Washington Post headline read Harvey’s Devastation Reaches Deep into Texas as Universities Face Students Unable to Start Class.  On 8/28, IHE reported that the hurricane prompted "evacuations, as well as delays in move-in days and starts of academic years for colleges along the Gulf Coast and in Houston area.”.

Among all the bad news about Harvey, what if there is a different story to be told? 

What if the real story of Harvey is that colleges and universities are today more resilient than at any time in the past? And what if the reason for that improving institutional resiliency is digital learning?   

Why should digital learning make it more likely that a college or university will be able to keep going in the face of an extreme weather event? 

During the past decade a number of things have happened all at once.  First, the learning management system (LMS) became ubiquitous. We might not give much thought to the campus LMS (Phil Hill calls the LMS the minivan of education), but the LMS provides a digital space in which professors and students can interact.  Today, most residential courses within learning management systems are limited to faculty posting up course materials and assignments. 

These platforms, however, have many more capabilities.  An LMS can be a place where (digital) lectures are posted, course discussions occur (in discussion boards and blogs), and quizzes and exams are held. Planned residential courses can morph into ad hoc online courses. 

Of course, anyone who teaches (or takes) online courses already knows all this. Online education is built on the same infrastructure as residential education. That residential course that only uses the LMS to post readings and maybe the syllabus is the exact same technology that is used to teach a fully online course. There is no “special” LMS for online learning. It is all one LMS. 

An even more promising trend related institutional resilience is how online learning has become the new normal. Last year, the number of students taking online courses grew to 5.8 million in the US. Fully 28 percent of postsecondary students are enrolled in at least one online course. 

All this means that our schools, professors, and students have lots of experience with online learning.
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Source: Inside Higher Ed (blog)

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