Strengthening Digital-learning for Better Education System

Martin Ebner, Head of Educational Technology, Graz University of Technology

Martin Ebner, Head of Educational Technology, Graz University of Technology

Martin Ebner is currently head of the Department of Educational Technology at the Graz University of Technology and, therefore, responsible for all university-wide e-learning activities. In addition, he holds an Adjunct Prof. on media informatics (research area: educational technology) and also works at the Institute for Interactive Systems and Data Science as a senior researcher at the same. His research focuses strongly on MOOCs & micro credentials, learning analytics, open educational resources and maker education. Martin has given several lectures in this area as well as workshops and keynotes at international conferences.

What are some of the current trends in distance learning and remote learning?

Everyone underwent a digital makeover due to the pandemic, which had never happened before. I believe that's a trend. Because the lockdown severely limited one-on-one engagement, we had to switch to full-fledged online learning. It was a very different circumstance because we had no idea when things would return to normal. Therefore, the adjustment has been well adapted by our teachers and students.

They are using software setup, video conferences, and digital learning materials for a better learning management system. We are still working on this because there is always space for improvement, but it is important to give the learner top-quality content with such online tools. We now have more content than ever, which is another significant development. It greatly increases our content flexibility and enables us to provide online courses to other universities. As a result, that makes us much more cooperative.

"We must be more inventive and imaginative by presenting live lectures rather than recording them"

What obstacles did you have to overcome to use these new teaching techniques?

Providing teachers with the support they need to deliver good quality content is one of the major problems. Before the pandemic, teachers used to create their PowerPoint presentations and written materials to share with the students. However, they now needed to produce virtual content, such as videos, and for that, they needed a video production specialist and someone more experienced with the job.

The requirement for operational and technical infrastructure is the second challenge. For example, if a teacher must deliver a lecture online, both students and teachers must have access to the right technical resources to make it more efficient. Finally, our third key difficulty is moving from face-to-face engagement to fully digital schooling, which is not just a technical one. We are therefore looking for better solutions to these problems.

What techniques do you employ to keep your students engaged while you are teaching on the other side of the screen?

Keeping your audience engaged when presenting an online lecture is a common difficulty. Simple lectures alone do not constitute transformation. You must continue speaking with the student. We must be more inventive and imaginative by presenting live lectures rather than recording them. Alternatively, you might offer a top-notch recording prior to the actual session. It provides students with better opportunities for cross-questioning.

What are some of the technology that facilitates your daily tasks and assists instructors in capturing students' attention?

Our primary tool is an open-source learning management system. We firmly support open access since it is important to us, the state university, and the government to provide education to at-risk students during school closings and reopening. The intriguing element is that we're considering high-quality online courses, and these MOOCs must have them. So, as a result, we offer those online courses and extra training, and we give students certificates or micro-credentials.

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