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Digital Learning: Best Practices for Higher Ed

Follow these tips to facilitate the pivot to online instruction at your campus.
Published: May 5, 2020

Digital learning has long been a component of the higher education landscape, but the closure of most campuses has shown that higher education faculty, staff, and students still face unique challenges.

HE faculty and staff need their institutions’ faculty senates, administrations, trustees, and other governance and shared governance groups to meet and create comprehensive plans that determine how they will ensure that quality learning continues whenever a campus has ceased normal operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and others natural disasters and acts of God.

Below is a list of special digital learning considerations for higher education practitioners.


HE institutions need to ensure that they provide quality training for faculty to learn how to navigate online platforms, such as Blackboard and Canvas, and other technologies, so that they are equipped to use all available tools to drive student learning. HE institutions must also be ready to provide support when faculty encounter technical issues delivering online, digital, and other digital learning instruction.


Some faculty, staff, and students may not have personal and individual access to technology such as computers, laptops, tablets, and other devices that can be used for digital instruction and digital learning. Institutions must be prepared to provide access to these technologies when they are needed.


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) dictates the kinds of information that educational agencies and institutions can collect, maintain, and disclose with permission. Safeguarding personal data of students and educators must be a top priority, and data privacy must be of paramount concern. Educators should not publicize identifiable information of students and should take care to comply with FERPA in addition to state and district policies. For more, check out our deep dive on digital learning privacy issues.


Online courses at HE institutions should be offered equitably and should not be contingent upon technological resources available to students. HE institutions must confer with regional, national, and other accrediting agencies to receive approval for temporary and long-term digital learning solutions when normal campus operations cease due to natural disasters and acts of God, such as COVID-19, to ensure that students are protected against their programs and classes not being recognized as meeting minimum standards for graduation, transfer, and federal financial aid, and other areas related to accreditation.


Activities and assessments should account for different learning styles and consider accommodations for students with disabilities and other learning varied needs. That said, digital learning at HE institutions must be consistent with face-to-face instruction, and faculty must set forth clear expectations for students.

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