Online learning today faces a tall order. With people accustomed to richer, more engaging digital experiences on their computers, smartphones, and tablet devices, it’s not surprising that they would expect that same quality of experience in their online classes. The reality is that capturing and keeping people’s attention in today’s world is more challenging than ever.
In higher education, distance learning has moved well beyond offering a small subset of classes to include complete undergraduate and graduate programs that foster ongoing collaboration among students and faculty. The challenge for higher education institutions is building distance learning on a foundation that supports today’s demands, while staying open to tomorrow’s requirements.
A few years ago distance learning largely involved students logging on and listening, with limited direct interaction with their professors and even less with their fellow students. Now, real-time interaction is the norm, as students virtually “raise their hands,” participate in breakout sessions, jointly lead presentations, share video, and engage in a host of other dynamic interactions.
For universities and students alike, it’s an exciting time. Rich, in-depth coursework and discussions are now available to more students more often. Regional colleges and universities have gone global, recognizing the opportunity to reach more students more cost effectively with a quality of instruction previously available only in traditional classroom settings. Students can now seek out the programs best suited to their interests and goals, not just the ones that are the closest and most convenient to their home or work.
Increasingly, Adobe eLearning technologies are the platform of choice for schools looking to create flexible, distributed learning environments. For instance, Clemson University uses Adobe Connect to engage students and faculty in real-time discussions across campus or around the world, while the acclaimed Academy of Art University has extended the boundaries of its San Francisco campus to include a global community of students. From just a handful of online classes a few years ago to more than 700 online classes today, Academy of Art University has seen online enrollment skyrocket, offering greater learning opportunities for students while providing enhanced revenue opportunities for the institution.
There are many factors driving the adoption of Adobe eLearning solutions at higher education institutions. First, online learning needs to be truly borderless and effortless. With the Adobe Flash Player already standard on most computers, tablets, and mobile devices used worldwide, institutions automatically overcome several obstacles, at once by providing reliable access and an easy-to-use experience for students. Equally important, Adobe solutions have long been at the core of delivering some of the richest, most visual digital experiences available today, bringing those same capabilities to online learning. Whether it’s compelling videos and multimedia presentations, interactive online discussions, or dynamic coursework available on demand, Adobe technology brings virtual classrooms to life.
Online learning today is really about choices—for universities and colleges, and for students. Faculty needs to be free to push the boundaries of online courses, without hitting technical limitations in terms of quality or accessibility of the content. At the same time, administrators should be able to offer courses in the way that makes the most sense for the school and for students. And of course, distance learning students shouldn’t expect second-rate learning experiences; virtual learning should still evoke all the wonder and anticipation of the first day of class, from the convenience of their home or office.