Onboarding Hybrid Learning Technology at University of Kentucky

How do you scale educational technology at a university of 31,000 students to enable learning in virtually any setting?

Dr. Kathi Kern, Associate Provost of Teaching, Learning, and Academic Innovation, and Kathy Hamperian, Executive Director of Customer Support and Student IT Enablement at University of Kentucky, joined the Enrollment Growth University podcast to talk about the massive and ambitious investment they made in hybrid learning technology in preparation for this fall.

How UK Upgraded the Technology in 90% of Its Classrooms 

In early May, UK started to ask, “What would it take to put a live streaming/recording device in as many classrooms as possible?” 

At that time, the school had used Echo360 for 10 years, and about 164 classrooms had that software in them. UK’s technology team proposed adding more Echo classrooms and more classrooms with panoramic cameras to facilitate using collaborative software, thus helping with the transition into dual modality teaching. 

“It was very aggressive,” Dr. Kern told us. “Some of the things were a little harder to get, but we had completed our installations in all of our classrooms by July 31st.”

Using Remote Technology to Keep Remote Students Connected

Technology is a great enabler of connection, but it’s not foolproof. Consider the meteoric rise of Zoom. In March of this year, UK had a limited number of licenses. Now, the university has 39,000 licenses. People have gotten increasingly comfortable with connecting through video conferencing solutions such as Zoom. 

“As a teacher, I think I’ve also been able to exploit the possibilities of keeping my students engaged using the Google Suite,” Dr. Kern said. “So I use a lot of Google Forms to take the temperature of the class.” 

Dr. Kern also uses Google Docs and Google Slides to get students brainstorming ideas, whether those students are remote or in the classroom. Everyone has gotten better at using the tools that are available, but the technology still poses challenges. Some students don’t feel comfortable turning on their cameras and can disengage, and we don’t know it as easily as we do if a disengaged student is sitting in front of us. But the technology at least allows us to make these efforts to produce a really connected classroom experience.

The Onboarding Process for New Technology in Higher Education

UK started with Zoom drop-in sessions for the faulty. Most people who dropped in sought help wth how to make the technology meet a learning objective for a course. Then in the summer, UK did two weeks of teaching with more than 1,000 members of the faculty. During those two week-long symposia, folks could work on redesigning their courses for the summer or the fall. 

In terms of students, this is a really interesting issue. We talk all the time about the digital natives, yet these students needed a lot of support in learning how to make these technologies work. They haven’t necessarily used a learning management system in high school. So UK did some introductions to Canvas over the summer. 

“But we also recognize that, as faculty, we have to spend time teaching the tools and helping the students unpack the technological landscape that is college education today,” Dr. Kern said.

The university also created a website, teachanywhere.uky.edu, which is jam packed with information for faculty or anyone who’s interested.

What’s Coming Next Down the Tech Pipeline at UK

Jamboard, part of the Google Suite, is an interactive whiteboard. Faculty can use it to teach, but Dr. Kern uses it for team-based learning and has her students learn to do visual analysis. 

“I preload the Jamboard with political cartoons,” she told us. “We just did an example of the visual culture of the early 20th century when women were trying to get the right to vote, and there were many political cartoons in opposition to that and caricatures of what would happen to the American family if women voted.” 

Students would see this cartoon from the early 20th century, and then they would use Jamboard to draw on it, show the points of emphasis, and leave sticky notes to make comments about the analysis. Jamboard holds promise for the future.

There’s also the question of the future of proctoring. 

We had a little interest in online proctoring before remote teaching, and then suddenly a huge demand for online proctoring. How do you do that in a way that respects students’ privacy concerns and doesn’t require them to pay another fee? Many faculty members at UK are solving that conundrum by coming up with alternative assessments.

Next Steps for Providing a Great Hybrid Learning Experience

Finding the right hardware to use is the easy part. The challenge comes with keeping your focus: How do we help our students make it through this pandemic and create the richest possible learning environment for them?

It can’t be about your school’s territorial issues — who owns what contract or who represents the institution with which vendor. When you’re thinking about the future of higher education during this cataclysmic time, the focus has to land on students and faculty. 

Teachers are having to learn how to teach all over again in new settings. Pedagogical values may not change, but the way you achieve them will. It’s a learning curve for everybody so it’s important to really support each other with a lot of grace and compassion. Nobody’s ever been through this before.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Dr. Kathi Kern and Kathy Hamperian at University of Kentucky. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.