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How the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved higher education

Posted at 7:08 AM, Dec 08, 2021

PHOENIX, AZ — For a lot of students, remote learning may have been and continue to be a challenge throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in K-12 schools.

It may have students feeling like they’re disconnected from their teachers and peers, but new research from education technology company Instructure showed that at the college level, online learning may be having the opposite effect.

Instructure is the creator of Canvas, an online platform many schools, like Arizona State University, use for students to connect with their professors, access assignments, and even take tests.

The company’s study, in its second year, is a global survey across 18 countries with almost 7,000 respondents. It found the demand from universities and colleges for help with online courses and hybrid courses skyrocketed, even as in-person learning resumed.

“They're integrating highly engaging tools. They're really measuring engagement with students and those interactions between students and educators that are so important to actually helping students reach their academic goals,” said Canvas Senior Director of Education Product Marketing Ryan Lufkin. “We've had 10 years of evolution into, you know, about a year.”

The days of the 300-person lecture hall, Lufkin said, may be gone. Those larger courses may find more benefit and engagement in shifting to online or hybrid model learning.

“I think before COVID, online learning was somehow viewed as less-than. It was not considered on par with in-person education,” Lufkin said. “Students have realized that we can be productive, and we can really achieve our academic goals with online learning.”

Lufkin said there are still a lot of benefits to that in-person experience, but that moving forward, even in-person should be supported by better technology to give students the most engaging experience possible.

Canvas, for example, has added new templates to facilitate more dynamic class discussions online, different user interfaces for different age groups, and better mobile access.

“Colleges, universities have really done amazing things over the last two years,” he said. “We want to understand how they’re evolving.”