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Challenges in Higher Education Today

Everyone faces challenges in today’s learning environment.  Read on to learn more about how WebStudy is addressing the biggest challenges in higher education.

Challenge #1: Financial issues

WebStudy: Helping Schools Leverage Technology Even with Reduced Funding and Resources
Even as cuts in state and federal funding force many institutions of higher education to trim their budgets, enrollment continues to rise. In such an environment, learning management systems (LMS) and other educational technology are coming under increased scrutiny. Educational technology must not only make budgetary sense, but should be reliable and effective.

When examining your LMS, there are several factors that should be considered.

  1. The technology’s ability to go beyond just information storage and retrieval to enrich the educational experience for students of all levels and strengths.
  2. Flexibility and continuous innovation
  3. Service and support that meets your college’s needs
  4. Affordable pricing that works in today’s budget realities.

More Affordable Pricing

Users of older, increasingly expensive course management systems are discovering that costs can sometimes rise faster than usability rates among their faculty. That’s not a good place to be in today’s higher education environment.

“Pricing increases and costly upgrades have led many colleges and universities to search for a new LMS provider, and the timing is perfect for WebStudy as we expand our offer to colleges across the country,” says Gisele Larose, past President of WebStudy. “WebStudy is evolving a new generation of education technology that has the primary focus of enriching education, while offering flexibility, support and pricing that colleges need today.”

WebStudy understands the challenge of having to do more with less. That’s why we offer “all in” pricing.

With WebStudy Learning, everything is included in one price. Everything. All modules, features, functions and upgrades are included. No separate price for hosting. No separate pricing for maintenance and Helpdesk support. No extra charge for upgrades. That means no costly surprises for you.

“At WebStudy, we have a lean, efficient corporate structure that reduces overhead and allows us to offer community colleges and other institutions a sensible pricing policy,” Larose says.

24-Hour Helpdesk and Zero Downtime

WebStudy was created by educators for educators with a customer service philosophy unmatched in the industry. The solid infrastructure of WebStudy Learning provides a 24-hour Helpdesk and zero downtime. The Helpdesk provides round-the-clock support for instructors and students, whether they need help logging on, submitting assignments or more complex issues that may arise.

“Like pricing, service has become a serious issue for users of other LMS providers, with downtime becoming the norm and long wait time for problems to be corrected,” Larose says. “WebStudy has a 24-hour Helpdesk that immediately addresses any issues that faculty and students may have, and our systems are reliable. For WebStudy users, zero downtime is the norm.”

Hosted Products For Continuous Innovation

WebStudy was developed with features and functionality based on a solid understanding of how students, faculty and administrators work. Its creators knew that the most sophisticated technology was of no value if people were unable to use it. For this reason, they didn’t want to make a system that took too much time to use or update. Plus, they wanted to move beyond a simple package of course materials to a dynamic, interactive learning environment that would benefit students who don’t excel in a limited classroom environment.

WebStudy is fully hosted, so it can continually be updated as new innovations become available. “In other words, as your needs evolve, as the technology advances, we will work with you to seamlessly integrate the advances to meet the educational needs of your students,” Larose says, “including those students on your campus, those in your local area, and those worldwide.”

Challenge #2: Student Retention Rates

Now more than ever, student retention and engagement in higher education must be given top priority if the U.S. hopes to compete on a global scale.Studies show that American colleges today have poor retention rates compared to other countries such as India and Japan, and American students are lagging internationally using math and science exams administered by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). (See WebStudy White Paper for more information)

Our belief at WebStudy is that engaging students with technology is imperative if retention is to be improved in American colleges. There are ways to help students stay connected with their school, their instructors and advisors and stay on track for graduation. A college’s choice of LMS provider/technology partner could turn the tide, in their rates of completion and the success of future generations.

WebStudy has never wavered in its commitment to put academic excellence first, and to build technology to support it. Our belief is that the most sophisticated technology is of no value if instructors and students are unable to use it.

With an emphasis on partnership with educators, technology experts and administrators at colleges and universities, we are committed to improving the learning outcomes in America so that we can once again compete on a global scale. We have been in the top ranking in college completion, and we will do what it takes to rise to the challenge again.

Challenge #3:  Merging physical and virtual workspaces

There was a time when college science labs could only be accessed inside four walls, with stools and vents and microscopes, and students had to be physically present in order to get lab work done. No more, according to a Oct. 2010 article in Campus Technology that reports Colorado State University in Fort Collins has developed a number of “virtual labs” across campus. The labs augment traditional learning by giving remote students access to the tools they need to complete their labs when they can’t be on campus.

Merging physical classrooms with virtual learning is the optimal environment today, with colleges crunched for funding, students more mobile than ever, and a large percentage of students working full time. However, after spending a lifetime preparing to teach in a “bricks and mortar” environment, it can be a real stretch for instructors (and some students) to imagine teaching or learning anywhere else.

The Paradigm Shift to Just-in-Time Learning

Colleges that have made the merge see light bulbs going off for students who need learning just in time, just when they need it. Yet, it can be challenging for instructors and some students to expand their mindset of educational possibilities. For instance, a true teaching moment could happen on YouTube, hours after class, or on the bus where a student strikes up a conversation about percentages that finally helps them understand.

With subtle shifts in restructuring physical and virtual learning spaces, instructors can make learning more accessible and affordable, flag students in need of supplemental learning activities and empower students to learn with a purpose. But it’s a paradigm shift for many. Adapting to a virtual classroom setting coming from a traditional classroom can be a culture shock. How can colleges help faculty and students adjust to an unfamiliar learning environment, one where they can access online resources any time, anywhere?

First, colleges can begin to look for examples to demonstrate that an instructor and a student do NOT need to be in the same place at the same time (classroom) for learning to take place. If you can promote a blended environment, then ALL faculty can experience this phenomena and see for themselves how technology is often the medium used to create instructional continuity between classes.

Here’s one example: If a student gets a call just before a class that his parent was in a car accident, he definitely is not going to be able to focus in his class, if he even makes it to class. But knowing that he will be able to access that class material online on the LMS gives him peace of mind. He can turn to a virtual environment to catch up on what he missed.

Empowering Students

Some students may struggle with technology and do not do as well in virtual settings, so classroom time is still crucial for them. Others benefit from virtual learning and feel more comfortable expressing themselves through interactive blogs, online discussions and the like.

In one scenario, a student named Pooja is doing poorly in her English as a Second Language (ESL) course and is thinking about dropping out. She’s eager to get to the computer lab and log on to her learning management system (LMS) to find out how she did on a test she took yesterday.

Pooja learns she received a grade of 80 percent, not her worst grade but certainly not her best. Almost immediately, she sees a prompt pop up in this week’s section of her LMS timeline asking her to review some material again. She clicks onto the supplemental material and is excited to see that she can learn the additional material through a game. After more than an hour playing the game, she starts to learn from her mistakes. Upon ending it, she sees a score pop up to show that she has improved her results. A notice is sent to the instructor and her advisor.

In Pooja’s case, the MyWebStudyTutor application in her LMS was able to flag the area where she needed supplemental learning and empower her to learn with a purpose. In other scenarios, blended learning has empowered students to complete ESL courses, gain basic skills credits for GED completion or job promotion, complete remedial Math for college-readiness, or combine all accumulated coursework to be transfer-ready for a 4-year degree.

Building Your Virtual Workspace

Another way that colleges can help instructors is by setting up resources that will assist faculty as they adapt to blended classroom/cyberspace delivery. Delaware County Community College, for instance, recently built a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) building with community spaces filled with computers, as part of their goal to augment community and peer-assisted learning.

How is your college merging your physical and virtual workspaces?

Being able to access online resources any place, any time has its advantages. Students travel a lot these days, and they need to be able to quickly access their resources and get their projects completed. Plus, for small colleges that may not have the financial resources to provide services in a traditional way, a Web-based solution that everyone can access is an invaluable resource.

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