AWS Public Sector Blog

8 recommendations for higher education from CIOs on remote learning

tiny globe on a desk with graduation cap

COVID-19 accelerated a number of rapid changes in higher education. Technology helped with continuity of education, and chief information officers (CIOs) had to overcome a number of challenges to achieve this. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and ucisa, the member-led professional body for digital practitioners in education in the United Kingdom (UK), brought together CIOs from across the UK and Europe to share and discuss their recent experiences and share lessons learned. Their recommendations?

1. Use the opportunity to implement your IT strategy wish list

Universities have become much more willing to experiment with technology solutions since the onset of the pandemic, due to the need for swift action. Many implemented several years’ worth of IT strategy in a few weeks or months. It is also important to pause and recognise the huge scale of work that skilled and dedicated team members have carried out in difficult circumstances.

2. Appoint digital ambassadors

Significant challenges exist in achieving simultaneous remote and face-to-face learning, as the needs of each audience vary. It’s easy for lecturers to use their traditional methods of in-class teaching for remote education, to the detriment of students who are learning remotely. Appointing educators who have adapted well to remote learning as “digital ambassadors” can give much needed support and advice to colleagues who are struggling and smooth this transition.

3. Provide a consistent experience

Returning students may find themselves in unfamiliar or novel learning spaces, as many institutions moved lectures and tutorials to higher capacity rooms or even outdoors. Consistency of the student experience in terms of teaching methods, technology, and programmes facilitates easier transition from one module to the next; inconsistency can be difficult for students who are already getting used to transitioning to remote learning. Make quick decisions to make sure all teaching content is available online to keep a degree of control and consistency in a changing situation.

4. Determine your digital rights management strategy

Recording lectures or seminars raises digital rights management issues, but the need to quickly move teaching online took priority over these concerns. As we move away from that emergency response and recording of these lessons becomes commonplace, ownership of digital content is becoming more prominent. Educational institutions need to be mindful of this and determine a digital rights management strategy.

5. Embrace accessibility

Remote learning has swept away barriers that face-to-face education can pose, and as a result, classes are becoming more accessible. Institutions need to fully embrace accessibility and make sure that all digital learning content is fit for all learners. “Captions available” simply won’t cut it.

6. Address digital poverty

The pandemic exposed the full extent of digital poverty amongst students. Many students are dependent on universities for IT equipment and internet access. Lockdown policies on short notice isolated many learners from the IT resources needed for their studies. Most institutions rationed resources, and worked with partners to send equipment to students directly. Institutions must be aware that digital poverty is often linked to challenging financial and domestic circumstances—issues exacerbated by lockdown measures and economic uncertainty.

7. Make sure to continue to provide welfare-based services

In addition to IT resources, the lack of campus access also means students do not have access to campus-based welfare support services. Remote pastoral care must be a priority for institutions to fill this ongoing void as lockdowns and social distancing continue.

8. Embrace and take advantage of remote work

Education institutions should take advantage of the new opportunities from COVID-19. For example, the pool of teaching talent available to remote universities has widened due to remote work and teaching. Innovation coupled with resilience will prove invaluable as institutions tackle the challenges ahead. Those that embrace this will be well positioned in the future.

For more insights on how educators are innovating to overcome challenges, download the whitepaper, “Emerging Trends in the New World of Education,” check out webinars from the IMAGINE: A New World of Education Webinar Series, and visit the AWS in higher education webpage.