Video-first learning: a long-overdue revolution in education?
Much like the workplace, the education system has been thrust into a remote learning experiment of unprecedented scale and scope. As schools and universities look to re-imagine the learning experience, video technology could be a lifeline for the future of education.
When the Times Higher Education surveyed leaders of prominent global universities in 2018, 63 per cent of the 200 respondents from 45 countries claimed that they expected established, prestigious universities to be offering full degrees online by 2030. Even before the pandemic, e-learning at every level of education was rising in popularity and there was already a high growth and adoption in education technology, with global ed-tech investment reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019 according to a report by Metaari.
While online learning was once seen as a threat to traditional institutions, remote learning technology has now come to the rescue during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Yesterday’s disruptors to the education system have become today’s lifeguards. The pandemic has given the opportunity for educational institutions to challenge the notion of when, where, and how education is delivered, the role of universities and colleges, and the importance of life-long learning.
While each level of education faces its own challenges during the pandemic, it is the secondary and higher education systems which have triggered the start of a learning revolution. The digital shift has sparked new partnerships between universities and digital service providers which will last long after the current crisis is over. However, it is secondary level education which has seen a higher demand and need for digital solutions that work.
While university students are both old enough to handle the teething pains of online learning and tech-savvy enough to quickly learn new digital platforms, and primary school students are hand-held through the digital process, it is at the secondary level where students are suffering most. Therefore, at this level it is imperative to get the right digital tools to easily facilitate engaging learning processes.
During lockdown, schools adopted a wide variety of remote teaching methods to ensure students remained online and engaged. One of these methods is the blended learning approach which combines a mix of learning online and face-to-face instruction. Although this was already in practice before the pandemic, it is now a crucial learning process where students complete their studies using digital tools in their own times.
The flipped classroom is a type of blended learning model in which students view lecture material prior to class, then spend class time engaging in exercises under the supervision of the teacher. It may be further enhanced with homework and activities used to follow up after class. This teaching style requires students to learn independently which allows them to learn in the best way for them. Logitech’s Brio webcam allows teachers to record and stream their classes using high quality definition video footage, when coupled with Logitech’s Capture software educators can connect, record, and share content to their students. The high quality of the webcam facilitates more engaging virtual ‘face-to-face’ collaboration while the Capture software allows the content to be widely accessible for all students.
‘Without a high functioning secondary school level, there wouldn’t be a higher education system’ – Nigel Penny, Logitech
Another teaching method that has been recently and quickly adopted into the secondary education system is hybrid learning. This is the method whereby students can be taught remotely and in-person at the same time via virtual teaching tools such as Google Hangouts Meet, Zoom or WebEx. The benefit is that the classroom environment can maintain a group dynamic and results in highly engaged interaction between students, and communication with their faculty is of a higher quality. Group work can be monitored and facilitated more closely. Peer interaction can be encouraged by teachers and likewise, teachers can interact more with their class. For the institution, the opportunity to provide an improved learning experience ensures that more effective training takes place.
The shift to emergency remote teaching and learning has sparked a lot of conversations about the evolution of these learning processes. A proliferation of the many traditional models of blended learning has illustrated the natural progression of most educational institutions to offer a blend of online and offline learning modes, signalled by the arrival of digital tools in almost every classroom globally. At a higher education level, choosing the right technologies for remote learning comes with a price. Moving university courses online due to Covid-19 is projected to cost the higher education sector around £1 billion. Therefore, investing in digital transformation that extends beyond the pandemic needs to be embedded in long term strategies to deliver inclusive learning to all students.
Video first approach
The majority of students in the education system currently belong to the Generation Z and Generation Alpha demographic. This means they have never known a world without technology and, as such, they are often referred to as “digital natives”. This often means that they are no stranger to new digital platforms and can independently navigate their digital experiences competently. This generation is also known for their ‘video first’ approach. Generation Z typically prefer visual social networks and learning platforms such as YouTube and Instagram and often expect high-quality video technology to be part of their digital experience.
Video technology and collaboration has become a crucial lifeline during the pandemic. It has the power to connect students and educators in a way that promotes interconnected active learning experiences, in and beyond the campus. While video-conferencing apps such as Zoom are a temporary fix to bridge students and teachers together, there are still challenges in maintaining the depth of engagement students could have in a classroom setting.
In a video-first world, video conferencing and collaboration technologies are needed to assist both faculty and students in a variety of ways. Due to the ease of accessibility and availability of video collaboration technology in and outside of the classroom, more and more educational institutions are adapting these technologies to fit their specific needs. Logitech has created a series of technologies to facilitate a more interactive video experience through its camera and headset range. Not only do the cameras have wide-angle lenses to capture an entire classroom setting, its one-touch join capability ensures easy access for every learner and educator.
The challenges of online learning
Research by Universities UK found that almost 60 per cent of students and recent graduates felt the social element of the campus experience helped them broaden their life experience, become more independent and confident, and develop skills like teamwork and time management. Now that this level of social integration is not possible with the virus, it is more imperative than ever that universities develop a strong and innovative digital strategy in place going forward to enable distanced learning and provide the best university experience possible.
‘There is evidence to show that learning can even be more effective online than in the physical classroom…’
There is alternative evidence which suggests that learning can even be more effective online than in the physical classroom. Research by Shift Learning shows that on average students retain 25-60 per cent more material when learning online compared to only 8-10 per cent in a classroom. This is mostly due to the students being able to learn faster online. E-learning requires 40-60 per cent less time to learn at their own pace because students have autonomy over how quickly they learn the material. However, this approach requires the right technology for an individual learner.
Students requiring the use of computers at home are cut off from face-to-face collaboration and the learning experience if they do not have the right video tools. USB plug-and-play kits can help achieve similar social interactions as if the learner was face-to-face in class. It is important for institutions to guide students on the best technology solutions available to aid their learning such as high-quality webcams, headsets to create immersive learning experiences while minimising distraction in their environment, and ergonomic mice for efficient navigation and productivity.
Independent learning comes at a price
Unlike at other levels in the education process, university students are expected to buy their own digital equipment using their student loan and there is little provision for digital hardware from the institution. Nigel Penny, video collaboration specialist at Logitech, stated that ‘many students in education opt for products which have multi-functionality’, which means they can use the technology for both educational and personal purposes. University students now want technology that they can use for gaming, learning, and communicating with friends and family.
However, in secondary schools, funding for technology typically comes from the government, school budget or the parents and guardians of the students. Therefore, it is critical that technology is accessible and not prohibitively expensive; it also needs to be durable for the everyday use of students between the ages of 11-18 years old. Now more than ever, IT solutions need to be robust and resilient enough to meet the changing needs of students and staff.
Logitech has developed affordable technology to accommodate for individual learning styles with its Rugged Folio protective keyboard case which allows students to type, tap, or draw with a stylus directly onto an iPad and its digital Crayon which lets students draw or take hand-written notes on a tablet, so they can learn in a more intuitive way. These tools can be coupled with a plug and play webcam for students to use during classroom discussion so they can engage and express their best self in the virtual classroom environment.
Currently many lecture theatres and classrooms are well equipped with digital technology to record lessons. While the education process traditionally favours learning in the physical environment, the pandemic has allowed the system to trial and become familiar with technologies to create engaging virtual classrooms at every level of education. However, it is not only students who need to learn to adapt, teachers are also required to radically rethink their teaching habits and styles to accommodate virtual learning. The technology to enable online lecturing needs to be easy and accessible for everyone, including educators to ensure a high-level of engagement is attained.
One of the largest challenges of the virtual classroom experience is lack of engagement. Face-to-face interaction at eye level is important in instruction delivery and cannot be achieved with an embedded webcam. External webcams can mount onto a laptop or external display to improve the quality of video which can improve the learning experience. Logitech has created a Meet Up product which is designed as an all-in-one solution which includes a microphone, speaker, and high definition camera to allow teachers to capture content which can be shared with students. This solution requires minimal external add-ons to the typical laptop or monitor set-up and thus makes teaching in a virtual environment more digitally accessible.
Strategies for the e-learning experience
The migration to e-learning has been challenging for both teachers and students so it is important that technology is an enabler and not a barrier to learning. Universities and schools can create an adaptive strategy to reach students enrolling in higher education where video is already a big part of their daily life. Encouraging a video-first culture in student’s education is key to lasting engagement throughout the academic year. Logitech uses USB plug-and-play solutions to make the digital transition as easy as possible.
Collaboration is an important aspect of learning and it is undoubtedly more challenging in virtual environments. Student engagement can be improved by opening up opportunities for communication inside and outside the classroom through interactive progress meetings, staff training sessions, virtual feedback on student assignments, and administrative updates which can be made more engaging through video collaboration solutions.