Celebrate National Distance Learning Week with AST

By: Aylin Dunham
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90% of universities moved their learning online in 2020, with many adapting their professional lives, personal time, and education to the virtual world. Distance learning has certainly been around for a while but it’s become an integral part of student life in the face of the pandemic. Now that it’s National Distance Learning Week, AST is celebrating this change by spreading a greater awareness and appreciation for remote learning.

To support distance learning, educators have been using digital tools like AST’s captioning technology and new instruction strategies to support students with diverse learning needs. This National Distance Learning Week, educators and eLearning professionals can learn from these useful tips to improve online learning outcomes.

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Best Practices for National Distance Learning Week

A key benefit of distance learning is that it offers students the flexibility to choose where and when they want to learn. Some teachers design their courses for asynchronous (self-paced) learning while others prefer using a synchronous (real-time) approach to instruction.

In most cases, distance teachers will use a hybrid learning approach, meaning that they’ll teach some of the content live through video but also give time for self-paced learning by assigning tasks and discussion opportunities outside of regular class time.

Educators can use these 5 strategies to make a difference in students’ online learning experience:

  • Offer Interactive Learning Experiences: Teachers can help students engage online by implementing interactive learning experiences. Interactive games that center students in the decision process, like jeopardy or virtual escape rooms, are some of the many interactive activities that foster creative problem solving and collaboration among online students.
  • Use Technologies: IT equipment, software and services enhance learning experiences. One study reported that technology is one of the main factors that distance learning students value most. Tools like speech to text captioning and transcription are especially helpful for distance learners with disabilities, who benefit from having their lectures written down for note taking and studying purposes.
  • Provide Opportunities to Connect: Offering students multiple ways to connect can help create a meaningful learning experience, especially in an online environment that doesn’t allow students and instructors to come face-to-face. Providing opportunities for multiple interactions, such as offering online office hours through Zoom, a number they can text or call and a Q&A discussion board can help students feel that sense of social interaction they may be missing.
  • Ensure Accessibility: Making your content accessible is an essential part of designing a course. Implementing assistive technologies like AST’s live captioning and audio description will help ensure that the course is meeting the needs of online students with hearing or vision conditions. Providing tools like transcripts also benefit all students by keeping them engaged when joining remotely.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Some students may not feel comfortable having their camera on or participating in live sessions, so it’s important to set clear expectations with them to ensure they have a comfortable learning experience. Explaining expectations for video use and participation during the first few days of the semester will help avoid later communication issues.

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What Others Are Doing

Educators that are interested in stepping up their distance learning program can learn more by checking out what others are doing. Some good examples of distance learning programs include:

  • Distance Education Captioning and Transcription (DECT): The DECT grant offers funding to the California Community Colleges (CCCs) to caption and transcribe video being used in distance learning courses. Schools can apply for grant money to use for captioning or purchase services directly from providers like AST who then send the invoices directly to DECT for payment.
  • Oregon Community College Distance Learning Association (OCCDLA): The OCCDLA accessibility initiative offers students technologies and resources that serve to enhance learning and teaching. Leaders at Chemeketa Community College help manage the system’s captioning resources, distributing funding to schools across the state for distance learning and student accommodations.
  • North Carolina State University (NCSU), Digital Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA): NCSU’s DELTA program helps support the University’s digital learning and distance education programs. They provide teachers with learning technologies like captioning, instructional resources and other tools to incorporate in their courses. The DELTA program relies on AST to manage captioning for class recordings and student accommodations.

Distance Learning is Here to Stay

Digital technologies have had a positive influence on nearly all aspects of students’ learning. Whether you’re trying to be proactive about improving learning outcomes during National Distance Learning Week or implementing more tools in the classroom, it’s clear that online learning will continue to impact students and educators for years to come.

AST provides universities, colleges and eLearning platforms like Cengage Learning and the University of Wisconsin accessibility tools to support their distance learning outcomes. To learn more about accessibility technologies like transcription, live captioning and audio description being used in distance learning programs across the US, get in touch.