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The Dawn of the Age of Digital Learning: Our Takeaways From This Week’s GSV Virtual Summit Series

Written by Krista Celentano on May 14, 2020

Related content: Higher Education

Yesterday, our Co-Founder and CEO Chip Paucek participated on a panel at the GSV Virtual Summit Series, a weekly speaker series held online featuring conversations with thought leaders on “the dawn of the age of digital learning.” Created as a way to facilitate important discussions until the ASU GSV Summit is able to resume its regularly scheduled programming this fall, the series focuses on the idea that society has moved from “B.C. to A.D.” (before coronavirus, after disease), and addresses a variety of topics from pre- and post-pandemic standpoints. At 2U, we’ve witnessed this transition first-hand. With the pandemic forcing the hybridization of education overnight, demand for high-quality online education is now greater than ever, and 2U has taken critical steps to ensure the continuity, evolution, and delivery of our offerings in a time of great need.

While on the panel, Chip spoke to this very topic: the future of learning in higher education amid COVID-19. He was joined by several other thought leaders in the education space, including Andrew Grauer, co-founder and CEO of Course Hero; Judy Olian, president of Quinnipiac University; and Mike Silagadze, founder and CEO of Top Hat, who all shared insights they have gleaned in the past 60 days as universities all over the world have had to adapt to a new normal. Read on for a brief recap of the panel and the learnings provided.

From emergency remote learning to a quality online experience.

The panel addressed a plethora of questions, but one of the most prominent themes throughout the discussion was the student and faculty experience during this wave of rushed, emergency remote learning. And, more specifically, how universities can move beyond remote learning to improve the overall student experience and embrace what online has to offer in the fall and beyond.

Chip began by applauding the higher education community for moving impressively fast to protect the health and safety of their students and faculty by offering live lectures online in a matter of weeks. But he believes this forced remote learning won’t cut it on a go-forward basis: high-quality online education requires methodically building a digital experience from the ground up, which doesn’t happen overnight. He’s optimistic that post-pandemic, universities will feel driven to invest their time and resources into online programs to ensure a sustainable and resilient future.

Judy believes this pandemic has reinvigorated a need for universities to remember to engage in the science of pedagogy and understand how students really learn. Coronavirus has brought us back to the fundamentals of instructional design, she said.

For Mike, it’s considering the importance of active learning that has posed a challenge to universities. Active learning is a critical piece of the higher education infrastructure that he said has been missing for the last 20 to 30 years. He shared Chip’s enthusiasm about the road ahead, highlighting that it could help universities recognize their abilities to create engaging learning experiences in a digital setting that could ultimately rival those hosted in on-campus classrooms.

The silver lining.

After sharing their thoughts on a handful of additional topics—including the concern of academic integrity in online environments, how to harness the power of technology to enhance the learning experience, and the connection between higher education and employability–each panelist was asked to share what they felt will be the biggest positive development that is going to come out of this crisis for students.

Andrew positioned this moment in time as a huge opportunity for universities to embrace online learning to extend their reach and increase access to their great instructors and resources on demand in a much more affordable way.

As for Judy, she thinks the innovative science of instructional design for a digital format will translate into every form of teaching.

Mike expressed tremendous optimism about the amount of creativity this pandemic will unleash for universities and businesses, which he feels will result in a more innovative higher education system with an increased focus on active learning.

Like Mike, Chip is also optimistic that COVID-19 could have a long-term impact on affordability and inspire universities to permanently adopt more flexible, high-quality, blended and connected, and sustainable models for delivering higher education to meet society’s critical needs.

Discussions like those held during the GSV Virtual Summit Series are of immense value, as they act as a catalyst for deeper reflections on our collective journey to embrace the power of high-quality online learning to strengthen our higher education system during these unprecedented times. Although this panel may have come to a close, the insights and perspectives we gained should not stop here. Let’s continue the conversation.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.