May 04 2020

Adobe Education Exchange Delivers with Valuable Distance Learning Resources

The transition to remote learning is being made easier for colleges and universities with help from Adobe’s online platform for educators.

There isn’t a college or university in the country that hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus crisis. For many, of course, the pandemic has changed everything: Campuses have closed, students and faculty are home, and all class instruction has been shifted online. The transition hasn’t been easy, to put it mildly, and many in higher education are wondering what’s next.

It’s the kind of situation, notes Brian Johnsrud, education curriculum strategy lead at Adobe, that few educators could have imagined at this time last year. But now that it’s happened, reality has set in, “and there’s an urgent need for immediate solutions.”

With that in mind, Johnsrud says, his team got together back in mid-March and held a brainstorming session around what they could do to help. They focused their effort on the Adobe Education Exchange (EdEx), an online platform and community that since 2010 has provided educators with free professional development courses and resources.

“Distance learning was already a part of that content, because even before the current closures a lot of universities had at least some online offerings,” Johnsrud says. In November 2019, for example, they’d posted a course covering flipped classroom strategies and tools for helping students experience learning in nontraditional ways. “So we looked at everything and decided we could provide all of those resources in one place. Basically, we’d create a kind of distance-learning hub where an instructor could find almost anything they’d need.”

Practical Instructions on Teaching from Afar

The team began by curating what they already had that specifically targeted distance learning, including blog posts, videos, webinars and the like. They updated that material as necessary, and they reached out to educators they’d worked with previously and asked them what they could use the most.

In one case, Johnsrud says, a faculty member at a large university in Texas said her senior students were struggling with the fact they wouldn’t have a live graduation ceremony.

“Obviously, that’s really outside of academics, but it’s still an important part of the college experience. So we developed a new post on how to hold a virtual graduate showcase, and then others around things that students can do,” like send virtual invitations using Adobe Spark or create a TikTok dance party in Rush, he says.

When the new site, Adobe Distance Learning Resources, was launched, Adobe made sure it had plenty of content on products and strategies “that have the broadest accessibility,” Johnsrud says. Adobe applications like Spark, Rush and XD all qualified because they can be used across a range of devices and don’t require a student’s institution to have a license for Adobe Creative Cloud; they also included posts linking to non-Adobe companies and organizations like Google, Microsoft and UNESCO.

Today, the site features everything from a webinar by a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on how to use Creative Cloud as a “mobile makerspace” to a video on videoconferencing best practices from a lecturer in creative writing at Stanford. There’s a course on “pivoting to online teaching” that explores research-backed practices faculty and staff can use to move to distance learning “while enhancing student success and engagement,” and there’s a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet listing the distance-learning resources more than 250 universities have offered their faculty. Johnsrud’s team is adding about 30 new resources to the page every week, he notes. And they’re trying to be responsive to any feedback they receive from educators, tailoring their posts to address their needs.

“A lot of it’s about conveying that ethos of, take it easy, one step at a time,” he says. “We want people to understand they don’t have to be an expert at everything at once — they can ease into this, learn as they go.”

Toward that end, the content helps instructors with tasks as seemingly simple as how to record a Zoom session so students who miss a live talk can listen in later. And they’ve covered the basics of distance learning and learning management systems, including how an LMS can work in concert with Adobe and Zoom.

As his team looks ahead, Johnsrud says, they don’t anticipate that demand for distance learning resources will go away once the coronavirus crisis ends.

“The way we see it, this site is here to stay, and it will probably get bigger and bigger over time,” he says.

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