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Redesigning online education: a platform to improve online learning services and support innovative teaching

We are designing a system to improve online learning platforms in an effort to achieve better virtual education outcomes for universities.

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What is the need are you focusing on?

As education moved online rapidly due to the pandemic, educators were left with the challenge of redesigning their curriculum to be virtual,  navigate their own relationship  with technology, and maintain student engagement. This plays out differently across all age groups of schooling, however we chose to start by specifically focusing on meeting the needs of college and university professors. Not all teachers have the same level of experience using technology in the classroom. On top of this, working in isolation makes it harder for educators to collaborate and share innovative ideas like they normally might for a moment like this.  

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Identifying a gap that needs to be addressed

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

We want to help schools with the shift to online learning during this time of social distancing by designing an interactive platform or guide for professors to share online learning resources, seek advice/feedback, and share innovative ideas. This platform could live embedded into existing homework platforms such as Canvas, or act as a proposal for new features of existing online learning platforms such as Zoom. We acknowledge that virtual learning doesn’t replace in-person learning, but we believe this situation could be a unique opportunity to connect educators and push them to think more radically and flexibly about their curriculum as well as the role of technology in their classrooms. Attached are two example questions from a survey currently being circulated to start compiling content.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

If implemented, our solution will help guide future improvements surrounding online learning. Many popular video conferencing platforms were not created with education in mind. The functionality of existing software available to educators does not fully align with the unique needs and challenges of the classroom. From the early feedback we have gathered in the weeks since widespread online learning due to COVID-19 began, we have identified numerous shortcomings of existing software now in use by many universities. Many students and faculty are frustrated with the inability to replicate the feel of an in-class experience. By facilitating the sharing of ideas and methods among the academic community, these challenges can be addressed and universities can begin to move back towards a productive, engaging classroom which facilitates learning. We believe that our efforts can inform educators and the developers behind popular telecommunication software such as Zoom. Educators will be able to shape their curriculums and adjust their teaching methods in a way that takes into account student experiences as well as all the available functionality available through their video conferencing platform of choice. While gathering feedback, we have learned that professors are unaware of certain software features or online classroom teaching methods which may be valuable for improving online education outcomes. The developers of popular software such as Zoom would also be connected with a platform to receive feedback to inform future updates and provide ideas for future additions to their product. In the long term, the near ubiquity of online higher learning means that this project has the ability to impact thousands of students and faculty currently conducting classes virtually. Many universities are uncertain whether they will be able to offer in-person classes in the fall, and as such our project has the potential to play a role in facilitating learning for months to come. In the short term, we plan to begin by implementing our project within the Barnard and Columbia campuses. We are currently in the ideation phase as we gather feedback from students and educators on their online education experiences. Once we determine the form of the project which will have the greatest impact, we plan to begin the implementation process within the Barnard and Columbia communities. We have access to Barnard and Columbia professors, administration, and information technology staff, and we plan to begin working with them shortly to bring our project to educators.

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

We are a team of students from the Barnard + Columbia chapter of the national network Design for America, working on social impact projects in our local community using human-centered design tools. This project emerged because we felt a necessity to pivot our work to address some of the pressing issues that the 2020 pandemic is bringing to the forefront of our society.

What is your profession?

Undergraduate students

Where are you located (country)?

United States

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

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