To satisfy that desire, colleges and universities have turned their attention to building the most robust hybrid environments possible. The addition of asynchronous and synchronous tools gives students the flexibility they want, while replicating the intangible benefits of face-to-face instruction that online learning tools have sometimes struggled to mimic.
If they can do this successfully and create a sense of community and connection to campus, regardless of modality, it could be the key to changing online student retention rates. Feeling a connection to a physical campus, to classmates, and to instructors can make students feel like a valued part of their communities.
At CDW, our higher education team has focused on working with colleges and universities across the country to make sure they get the most out of hybrid learning, and we’ve helped our partners identify the best ways to create a sense of community in those environments.
This is something we have learned.
LEARN MORE: Why Portland State University is committed to hybrid learning.
Device and AR programs can build community connections
Perhaps the easiest way to ensure student connection is to put the right technology in their hands. Device programs are now commonplace in the higher education landscape, and for good reason: These programs ensure equitable access for all students. Loading devices like tablets or laptops with the same collaboration software and other learning tools can further ensure that students can fully participate in hybrid courses.
Once students are at the same technological starting point, the burgeoning world of virtual and augmented reality is well worth exploring. Tools like Microsoft Mesh, which brings augmented reality into the classroom through Microsoft Teams, allows students to converse in the metaverse (or, as it’s known in higher education, the metaversity). Mesh, which is a cloud-based platform built through Microsoft Azure, is just one of several AR options that can be incorporated.
AR and VR are designed to recreate the kind of human connections that students miss out on when learning outside of the classroom. AR, VR and extended reality (XR) have the power to be transformative technologies in higher education. One of their biggest selling points is the person-to-person connection they enable that goes far beyond the video or chat experience found in standard collaboration tools.
At the same time, AR, VR, and XR are still new and evolving technologies, and universities that incorporate those tools can expect a steep learning curve for instructors and students alike as they work through the best use cases.
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