Distance learning has surged from nice to have to need to have – propelling us to ask: What does it mean to be a remote teacher?
Replicating the in-person educational experience and adapting student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships to online takes more than just placing a webcam at the front of a classroom, or interacting via video between two computers.
This is especially true when it comes to the physical network building skills that are a core part of the Cisco Networking Academy experience.
With today’s technologies and the help of remote learning experts, there are alternatives that allow many learning outcomes to still be achieved – and even optimized. Building online learning experiences often reveals ways of interacting, collaborating, and fostering student engagement that may not have been appreciated previously.
Meet the packet tracer
Let’s take Packet Tracer, a networking simulation tool widely used across Cisco Networking Academy for practice with feedback. Packet Tracer enables students to manipulate devices and networks in a virtual environment, a reasonable “microworld” model of complex networking reality. As an alternative to physically building small computer networks, students can select networking devices, examine a physical representation of those devices, connect them via cables or wireless, configure protocols, and create a working model of a network.
In addition, Packet Tracer has a “physical mode” that enables students to route cables and move Wi-Fi devices in and out of range. These technologies are also being investigated for adaptive learning and virtual reality.
Transforming learning experiences
Visualisation and simulation tools like Packet Tracer are intrinsic to the practice of all modern science and engineering. These tools offer many possibilities to create effective online courses platforms and remote learning programs. Combining simulation tools with online collaboration and synchronous videoconferencing tools like WebEx can create powerful online learning experiences, and keep students engaged while they learn remotely.
Cisco today partners with 12,000 learning institutions around the world to deliver the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum via the NetAcad.com platform, and most of them are using Packet Tracer for curriculum and assessment.
In addition to the Packet Tracer simulator, students might also be able to use their home computing and networking devices. And for those who want to practice their skills on more sophisticated real-world equipment, they can take advantage of more advanced tools such as NDG’s NETLAB+, which enables Cisco Networking Academy partners to host real Cisco lab equipment and curriculum on the Internet to provide remotely-accessible (via browser) equipment pods.
Empowering remote teaching
Remote teaching is relevant beyond the Cisco Networking Academy. The current pandemic has seen an amazing response from individual instructors, institutions, and professional societies. If you have not already sought out peers, resources, and communities of practice, they may be supportive sources of insight. We have found that relationship and presence are the keys to teaching. Mindful experimentation with forms of synchronous collaboration that may be new to you – from standard videoconferencing to VR meeting spaces – can prove effective as we face the new normal.
Education may change more this calendar year than it has in decades. It is vital that we find ways to maintain the human connection between teachers and their students and amongst students. As we take on distance learning, we have the opportunity to digitally translate the importance of those physical, in-person, hands-on skills and wisdom that come from encountering the physical reality of the engineered world.
How are you implementing remote teaching? What tools help you? Keep an eye out for our next #EducationNow blog as we discuss Mental Health Awareness month and Education.