Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of online learning in higher education, but what does the future hold for blended learning?
The pandemic has brought the importance of online learning into the spotlight, as well as the higher education institutions that struggled to quickly adapt and offer effective online support to their students. As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, we’re seeing how universities’ teaching methods have been impacted, and what important lessons have been learned.
It’s hard to believe that a year ago, the term “blended learning”, where online education is combined with traditional classroom-based methods, was virtually unheard of outside of the world of academia. But when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, universities were forced to rapidly shift their teaching and learning resources online, subjecting their existing digital resources to the ultimate stress-test. This presented a whole host of obstacles for both students and lecturers.
As an online learning resource provider, whose innovative processes offer students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) modules in university video tutorials customised to their exact syllabus, Proprep was already ahead of the digital learning curve.
The beginning of the revolution in digital learning
Before Covid-19, teaching methods were already in need of an overhaul. A 2014 meta study confirmed that students studying STEM degrees using passive learning methods such as traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail. However, adopting an active learning model and putting the student at the centre of different teaching methods such as flipped, blended and online classes achieved far better learning outcomes. Also, multiple studies demonstrated that video is a highly effective educational tool, and shorter videos in particular allow students to process information more efficiently and have improved memory recall.
This research confirmed the methodology that Proprep, which launched in the UK in 2019, was already using to develop its study tools. Proprep placed short online video tutorials at the cornerstone of its successful blended learning model, which also includes online workbooks, study guides and practice questions and solutions.
Focusing on STEM subjects, and using award-winning artificial intelligence and a team of seasoned professors with more than a decade of experience, Proprep built a vast library of more than 50,000 online video tutorials, all between five and seven minutes long. Proprep continues to add to this on a weekly basis and can develop resources customised to a specific university module, which includes 75 to 95 video tutorial hours and around 1,200 practice questions and study guides, in less than 20 minutes.
This technology has already achieved incredible results in Israel and the USA, with more than 500,000 students and lecturers relying on this innovative method to create learning materials.
Breaking down learning barriers
Suddenly, complicated STEM topics once deemed difficult to teach or learn could be carefully dissected into bite-sized videos that students could access at any time, from any device. This allowed students to learn at their own pace and ensured they had access to information that is laser-focused in its relevance to the student’s specific course.
Universities were initially hesitant to adopt this dynamic approach to learning, but the pandemic forced their hand. Proprep’s response to this mass exodus to online learning was to open all its resources to students, free of charge, for the entire academic year. Having already partnered with 25 student unions around the UK, Proprep also reached out to multiple universities to offer them access to its learning resources and analytics to track students’ learning activity.
Keeping the student at the centre of Proprep’s study resources helped demonstrate to universities and academic professionals alike that Proprep supplements students’ learning, rather than trying to replace the lecturer.
This saves lecturers valuable time by enabling them to offer additional, reliable resources to their students via fresh learning content in a wide range of mediums. This means Proprep can support universities as well as students, in equal measure.
The future is active blended learning
As we cautiously approach normality, with a confirmed date set for students to return to campuses, this gives universities an exciting opportunity to embrace their newfound digital literacy. By continuing to fine-tune their online offerings, giving students access to active blended learning tools and recognising the capabilities of third-party tools such as Proprep, universities can reach incredible milestones. The barriers to difficult subjects can be slowly lowered as they become more accessible, with dropout rates reduced while students’ academic results improve.
Gone are the days of having a job for life. In the 21st century careers are constantly changing, making certain skills obsolete in a matter of years. Continually changing your profession will soon become the norm, so being able to teach yourself new skills is essential. Students learning critical thinking, problem solving and self-learning skills at university will help ensure their ability to easily evolve and adapt to their workplace. For students and universities, a bright, post-pandemic future of enhanced digital learning is on the horizon.
by Itay Koppel, CEO, Proprep