Centralising Support to Students Key to Online Learning Success, Says Wittenborg President
Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences has quadrupled its investment in digital resources the past year as the world continues to see a rise in online learning. Since the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 a year ago, the institution has largely see-sawed between virtual and hybrid teaching (a combination of teaching classes online and in-person).
Wittenborg President Peter Birdsall said that although everyone is keen to get back to the classroom, including students, they do want the option of online learning – even after the pandemic has been brought under control by way of vaccinations.
Nonetheless, he was pleased by the efficiency of Wittenborg's ICT team in responding to the new demands that online learning has placed on them. Along with investing in software, Wittenborg also enlarged the capacity of its human resources to ensure everything runs smoothly.
"The most important thing we have done is to centralise the support mechanism. For instance, the past year we have systematically improved the helpdesk software, so that emails with, say, questions are flagged and automatically sent to the person best suited to respond to them as quickly as possible."
Birdsall told the British weekly Times Higher Education (THE) last year that Wittenborg has set up an around-the-clock helpdesk to answer “every conceivable question” from its 1,200 students and staff, who hail from more than 120 different countries. It was part of a survey the publication did halfway through 2020 to determine how institutions are transitioning to online learning. About 200 university leaders from 53 territories took part in the survey.
Birdsall said already back then that keeping support centralised and coordinated is a proven success. "Answers are provided, even if it means forwarding the question to a teacher, a supervisor, a tutor, a registrar, a visa expert, the housing team or a technical person."
Medicine, engineering and technology hardest to teach online
Most respondents to the survey were content with the way they have handled the switch to online learning. "A full 85 per cent believe that their transition has been successful from a technical point of view," THE reported. The survey indicated that universities found disciplines related to medicine, biology, engineering and technology the hardest to teach online.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press