Well-designed solutions can make distance learning less distant, and help us narrow the skills gap.
GUEST COLUMN | By Brent Bingham
With the arrival of the global internet decades ago, we saw exciting new possibilities to advance teaching and learning. However, most early efforts simply involved replicating traditional instruction and curriculum online to create distance learning. Unfortunately, that distance still exists in many of today’s edtech projects and platforms. We must do better. We must deliver on the unique promise of technology to actually narrow the distance between teachers and learners.
‘The use of synchronous video conferencing tools has skyrocketed. Users of these applications have become very discerning in a fairly short time.’
Supporting close, human interactions isn’t just an academic imperative. Today’s students (and their potential employers) need more human learning experiences in order to close the current skills gap that our nation is facing. Many critical, emerging sectors of our economy suffer a scarcity of competent, skilled workers. Other aging sectors are being eliminated or transformed in ways that necessitate massive reskilling of the workforce.
Consequently, huge numbers of traditional and non-traditional students are flocking to programs that emphasize skill and competency development. At their core, these programs provide authentic opportunities for hands-on practice and close expert assessment. However, these kinds of experiential learning environments are challenging to deliver remotely and at scale.
Recent pandemic restrictions and campus closures have made these challenges even more acute, raising questions such as how do nursing students demonstrate basic skills and get timely feedback when they can’t be onsite? Or how are teaching students observed and assessed when they can’t enter a classroom with students? Well-designed, collaborative video technology could make a crucial difference in these scenarios.
History of Video for Distance Learning
Philo T. Farnsworth invented the television in 1927. Seven years later, the University of Iowa pioneered the use of television as a distance learning tool. It took another 30 years before the FCC set aside 20 channels for live and pre-recorded university curriculum. When broadcast-based distance learning ultimately gave way to the internet in the 1990s, some tech savvy instructors began to upload their recorded video lectures. The launch of YouTube in 2005 made uploading videos easier for everyone. Two years later the iPhone initiated a wave of smartphones that could capture quality photos and video. You also could now easily exchange photos and videos with your friends, evening chatting with them through live video chat tools like FaceTime. Enhanced bandwidth access and social media networks now make it possible to share and communicate with a global audience. However, educational technology has not kept pace with these innovations in video and collaboration.
With the arrival of the pandemic in 2020, millions of teachers and students have been required to go online. That forced migration has consisted of hurried and disjointed attempts to replicate traditional, physical classrooms virtually. The use of synchronous video conferencing tools has skyrocketed. Users of these applications have become very discerning in a fairly short time. While they appreciate the human connection across distance that live video can supply, they also recognize significant limitations when used in an educational setting.
How the Use of Video Is Evolving
In particular, today’s competency-based education programs need more than just live group conferences, recorded lectures, and explainer videos. Students in these experiential programs learn by doing, and they need video solutions that match that need by providing closer collaboration and feedback.
Some of the most requested solution design features include:
- Asynchronous mode. This ensures scheduling flexibility and equity for learners unable to participate in real time because of unreliable or scarce connectivity.
- Self-recording and observation. Learners need the ability to record videos on mobile devices they already own, and to comment and reflect on performance videos they create.
- Easily shareable recordings. Beyond ease of recording, ease of sharing is critical to enable assessment by authorized peers and instructors.
- Time-coded annotations. When formative feedback is contextualized within corresponding video segments, it gives learners specific information about how and where to improve their skills.
- Personalized feedback types. Depending on individual needs, text comments, audio annotations, and video responses help make feedback more personalized, understandable, and usable.
- Embedded video assessment rubrics. Learners need clear and consistent criteria for performance expectations and competency assessments over time.
- Full accessibility compliance. Creating flexible options for how and where learners participate, as well as how they receive feedback, helps academic institutions maintain a commitment to accessibility and inclusion.
With the right design, technology can take us to a new, better normal. Well-designed video solutions can make distance learning less distant, and help us narrow the skills gap.
Brent Bingham is Chief Strategy & Product Officer at GoReact, a world-leading provider of video-based software for observation, coaching, and assessment. During his two-decade career in edtech, he has led teams at Powerschool, Apple, Pearson, and Frontline Education.