For centuries, education has been an in-person activity. The classroom as we know it has changed little between the School of Athens and the School of Today.

At Ettore Majorana Secondary Technical School, a Cisco Networking Academy in Milazzo, Italy, it was no different – and the school was proud to be part of that millennia-long tradition of education. With highly interactive and specialized tracks for students, Ettore Majorana take pride in innovation and a commitment to the latest and greatest in technology.

Moving from Interactive Whiteboards to Webex

When the global pandemic started, the school had to find a way for 180 teachers to educate 1,600 students in subjects like Materials and Inorganic Chemistry, Biotechnology, Electronics, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Telecommunications, Mechanics/Mechatronics, Transport (Air Navigation), and Logistics. A school where learning was defined by “proximity” and in-person experiences – with the most collaborative technology to-date being the adoption of an interactive whiteboard, Ettore Majorana chose Cisco Webex to deploy distance learning.

The Digital Generation

“Unlike previous generations, our current crop of students was raised learning online. This generation has already learned significantly more materials from screens than books, meaning they are already prepared for the challenges of digital communication. The task then was not preparing the students but preparing the institution.”

Natale Fina, Electronics and IT Teacher at Ettore Majorana

The global pandemic has accelerated trends long in the making. Students are more digitally connected than ever before. The students of Generation Z (also known as Digital Natives), born after 1996, have never lived without daily technology usage and interactions. According to a Pew Research Center study, 45% say that they are “almost constantly” online. These students crave creativity in the classroom. They expect digital experiences to carry over between their personal, educational, and professional lives. That’s why blended, or hybrid, learning is more critical today than ever before.

Three Ways to Optimize Blended Learning

1. Design classes that go beyond the classroom

“Through our partnership with Cisco Networking Academy, we use Cisco Packet Tracer—a powerful network simulation tool, which students can use at home.”

At Ettore Majorana, Cisco NetAcad courses were critical to continuity of learning during the first shutdown. Students could easily access their Networking Academy coursework outside the classroom. When building classes in the semesters and years to come, educators have the opportunity to build flexibility into their models – such that a snow day or sick day no longer means missing critical learning experiences.

2. Build creativity into classes

“The annotation toolbar in Webex is one of the most powerful tools for educators. These mechanisms allow us to highlight important content with text, lines, shapes, or colors. This function makes the difference between simple lectures and dynamic presentations to students.”

An Adobe Educate study on Gen Z students from around the world found that Gen Z students prioritize creativity as a skill, and see creating as the most effective way to learn. By enabling students to collaborate, share ideas, and communicate in real-time during class, we can empower them to reach new levels of creativity that will support them through their educational journeys and professional careers.

3. Invest in collaboration technology that can scale from in-person to hybrid to distance learning

“For some classes, for example, a lecture on basic theory is taught online and students practise in person inside laboratories. Webex is a wonderful tool because it can be used from home or inside the classroom to maintain physical distancing.”

Blended learning is powered by collaboration. When building a blended learning experience for your students, make sure you are choosing the best collaboration technology to power learning. Cisco Webex empowers teachers and learners – from chat, white-boarding, polling, and breakout functionalities to drive engagement to integration with leading Learning Management Systems (LMS) to easily shareable recordings – while ensuring end-to-end security.

Looking to the Future

Today, we are long way from the lyceum of yesterday. This time of change has forced us to innovate, evolve, and expand learning opportunities. As we train tomorrow’s leaders, it is critical that educators invest in blended learning for a world where technology is seamlessly integrated and blended into our daily lives.

>> Read Ettore Majorana’s story

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Stay tuned for an exciting new #EducationNow blog next week on our Cisco Designed for Education portfolio for small schools and colleges.

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Heather Keleher

Marketing Coordinator

Cross-Industries Marketing