At Panopto, we believe all students should have equitable access to every aspect of their education. Our mission is to help anyone share knowledge using video. This mission doesn’t come with an asterisk—it’s about being inclusive and enabling all people. When it comes to education, we recognize students for who they are, where they are, and what they need.
As such, we won’t rest until the fundamental rights of education equity are met:
- Individuals have a right to education.
- Schools have a responsibility to provide equitable access to that education.
- Students are entitled to a level playing field for every class, project, or activity related to their education.
The issue of education equity
All students deserve access to the information and resources they need to earn an education. When students enter college, they arrive with different needs and from varied circumstances, some of which will influence how they can access their education.
For example, in today’s world, many students have important reasons they cannot consistently attend class in person, be it family responsibilities or work obligations, or unforeseen illness. Some may live quite a distance from campus or not have reliable transportation.
And for some students, when they do attend class, it may be difficult for them to fully absorb all the information in the moment. Perhaps they do not speak English as their primary language, or they may have a learning style, disability, or medical condition for which traditional classroom settings are not accessible or optimal for learning. Virtual learning solves for many of these student pain points and more.
What the pandemic taught us about virtual learning
The pandemic required students to continue their education from a distance. Schools were focused on keeping their students healthy, which meant they couldn’t gather for lectures and discussions. The pivot to remote learning was both swift and necessary. It allowed students to stay connected, keep learning, share assignments, and take exams. It also allowed them to stream lectures or watch recordings while they were ill or in isolation.
But as we emerge from the Covid crisis, long-term virtual options will continue to provide students access. It’s not just about keeping students healthy—though virtual learning will still support students who are ill. It’s now about offering students learning opportunities that fit their lifestyle, their schedule, and their needs.
The benefits of virtual learning, especially when it comes to equity, are hard to ignore:
- Streaming lectures allow students to attend class remotely, no matter where they are, and recorded lectures allow them to do so at whatever time is most convenient to them.
- Recordings also serve as a tool for students to revisit and review material at their own pace.
- Virtual discussions bring students together, as a full class or in smaller breakout groups, with equitable opportunities to participate.
- Asynchronous forums allow students to share questions or observations, encouraging thoughtful interactions and relieving the pressure some students may feel in a real-time classroom discussion.
- Supplemental materials give students additional opportunities to understand and engage with a topic.
If the pandemic taught us anything about education, it’s that it’s absolutely possible to learn through digital and video tools. Students can engage with classmates and instructors, submit assignments, complete quizzes, create videos, and access lectures and supplemental materials. They can search a recording and instantly find every moment a particular concept is mentioned in a lecture.
Now that students have seen how digital and video tools can transform their learning experience, they’re demanding continued access. They want schools to offer online options that allow greater access. We spoke with one professor who said faculty members at her school who don’t have asynchronous options for their classes are increasingly subject to lower student ratings.
It goes beyond having proof that students can learn effectively with this technology. What’s become clear is that instructors are able to teach far more effectively using remote learning tools than was believed pre-pandemic. With these tools, instructors can provide instruction, forums for discussion, feedback, office hours, and face-to-face virtual support. The pandemic revealed that many universities’ concerns about the feasibility, effectiveness, and costs associated with virtual learning options were unfounded. All along, these misguided reasons have stood in the way of investing in the accessibility and equity these digital tools provide.
The evidence is clear: Virtual opportunities for teaching and learning are effective and expand education equity, giving students more ways to access and participate in their education.
Remote learning benefits going forward
What’s next? Virtual learning is no longer just a crisis-mode solution, but rather a means to driving expanded equity in education. Research indicates that about two-thirds of both students and faculty would like to use more tech and digital course materials in the future. Students are using technology, mobile apps and digital tools in many areas of their lives, and they’re eager to have those options in order to more fully participate in their education, no matter what their circumstances may be.
As we move forward, schools and educators need to think about how to expand virtual learning, incorporate best practices, and improve access. Consider the current options – what’s working and what’s not? Are your digital platforms working hard enough and smart enough? How do students use virtual learning, and how are instructors incorporating it into their courses? How can your school expand access to better serve students who need to learn in different ways and at different times?
Education equity should be something your school considers in every decision moving forward. In the long term, virtual learning tools are essential for education equity. Your students deserve access to the resources they need to learn.