As classroom-based learning moves back to the front-burner for both K-12 and Higher Education, institutions are adopting a variety of new approaches to help smooth the transition. Two tools that are driving this next generation of student engagement are the use of cloud calling and intelligent endpoints.

Are we at a pivotal moment for student engagement?

Simple and reliable, these two tools are empowering more creative classrooms while improving student engagement and reducing distractions to learning. More importantly, they’re helping rebuild the confidence of teachers and students as they reimagine education.

I consider cloud calling and intelligent endpoints as evolutionary pivots in learning. Like the first slate blackboards or mimeograph machines, they’re creating a clear demarcation in how teachers teach and students learn. They’re also powering new methods of collaboration in the classroom. A recent conversation with my mother drove this point home.

Few tools equal few opportunities

My mother was raised on a sharecropper’s farm in rural Kentucky. She loved school. But back then learning was limited to what a single teacher in a little schoolhouse could teach. Their isolated and unconnected community provided two options to children: you either picked up the basic tools of learning (a pencil and tablet) and walked several miles to school, or you picked up the worn and rusting tools of farming (a hoe and a shovel) and walked out to the fields.

The only technology in her school was the electricity for a few overhead lights. The knowledge presented was basic with no ability to reach beyond the classroom to interact with experts or experience new places or events in real-time. Collaboration meant turning to your classmate with the hope they knew the answer (usually they didn’t). And there was no Internet to find answers . . . no digital to divide.

The concept of a seamless, integrated virtual environment that let you call anywhere, anytime without a wire was alien. Whiteboards were still black, with no way to save the information they held, except in your memory. At the end of the day, much of the knowledge they held lay as chalk dust on the floor, a tool swept away. And once home, there were no tools she could use to reach out to her teacher or other students to keep learning beyond the classroom.

Unfortunately, despite her love for schooling, my mother’s education came to an end in the 8th grade. Her family didn’t have the funds to continue her learning onto high school. It’s called inequity. She often tells me of her last day of school. How she cried all the way home, knowing that she could never go back, and that she would not have the opportunities those with more money, more tools, would have.

Her experience reminds me that sometimes we overlook just how pivotal technology can be for individual students. Take Webex Contact Center as an example. It lets educators create personalized interactions that can increase student engagement and confidence, helping keep them on track academically, even socially. For my mother, such a tool would have dramatically altered her future—if it had existed.

The right tools can power student engagement

Fortunately, new tools are now powering collaboration in the classroom, bringing more access and opportunities for people like my mother. One cloud-based communications solution, The Webex Suite, helps learning break free of the classroom by delivering anywhere, anytime collaboration and information sharing in a seamless, integrated virtual environment. Powerful whiteboarding and advanced data security give it capabilities my mom’s blackboard could never offer, including increased student engagement.

In addition, educators are now leveraging tools like Cisco Intelligent Endpoints to inspire teachers and students. As a former teacher, my favorite is the Webex Board that can power hybrid learning. It does this by letting you wirelessly present, whiteboard, video or audio conference, and even annotate shared content, all at the touch of a finger.

I also find great value in the Cisco TelePresence Precision 60 intelligent camera. It overcomes a common issue with remote teaching by using advanced software to follow the instructor’s movements. This lets them interact freely with students in the classroom while still remaining in frame to address remote learners.

Tools can also power inclusiveness

People mention inclusiveness a great deal these days. But for me, it takes on a special importance. As a society, many of the inequities my mom faced are still present. I’ve seen them. They are real. Especially those that impact self-worth. But they shouldn’t be.

With collaboration tools like Webex Calling, Meetings, and Messaging, we can now mitigate many inequities by giving students the gift of connecting with their teachers or other students from any device, anywhere to create the sense of community critical to their social and mental wellbeing. They can also create breakout groups, message when its more efficient, and share their work virtually to overcome distance and resource challenges. And Cisco Intelligent Endpoints provide simple, intuitive tools that improve student engagement, reduce distractions to learning, and build confidence for teachers and students. These tools also help instructors by keeping them focused and in control of hybrid learning environments.

In an age when humans have reached beyond our solar system to “teach” the universe about our existence (see Voyager’s Golden Record), we should be equally concerned and impassioned about equipping classrooms and beyond with the tools to overcome inequity.

Building a more inclusive world starts with knowledge; from accelerating research to reimagining education. A new world of collaboration is now at our fingertips thanks to next generation tools for student engagement. And it’s a world that is more personal, more inclusive, and that can overcome many inequities facing our communities.

Join us at EDUCAUSE 2021

We invite you to join us at the 2021 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, October 26-29, to hear the latest around Cisco secure hybrid experiences and learning.

Until then, discover how Cisco is helping bridge student and teachers learning experiences.

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Kenn Dodson

Industry Expert + Author

US Industries