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Transforming Higher Education With Blended Learning
Lori Smith, Chief Information Officer & Svp Compliance, Universal Technical Institute
UTI’s many blended learning programs offer students online coursework and in-the-lab training at one of our 15 campuses, and we are increasing access to our programs to help fill the estimated 146,000 national automotive, diesel and welding job openings annually through 2030.
Education technology is an incredible conduit to enable vocational institutions to offer a blended learning model like ours, which helps students balance their education and other commitments, like work. UTI first launched interactive online learning in 2010, and transitioned many of our programs to a blended learning model when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We’ve since incorporated coursework in the Blackboard platform to streamline students’ I see the benefits of a blended learning model as three-fold:
2. Greater mastery and understanding: our digital lessons include videos, demonstrations, animations and reading material. Students have the ability to interact with the content and review it as many times as they need. In a classroom lecture, they may miss a crucial piece of information when it’s only presented once. Educational technology allows for a more “active” learning environment where all students are required to engage with the content and participate in discussions.
3. Identification of at-risk students: our learning management system (LMS) offers a variety of dashboards that give instructors and Student Support Coaches up-to-date information on our students. UTI education directors and leaders use it daily to identify students who may be at-risk and flag those students for additional support at the campus level.
Education technology is an incredible conduit to enable vocational institutions to offer a blended learning model that helps students balance their education and other commitments
In addition, our MIAT campuses in Canton, MI and Houston, TX are expanding their use of education technology through virtual reality (VR) for students training to become aviation technicians. Students can practice and master skills virtually before training in a live environment. This is also true of our virtual welders, which are used at the 10 UTI campuses currently offering Welding Technology Training. Virtual welders simulate the welding process and help students develop dexterity and muscle memory without the need for raw materials.
While the transition to blended learning can be challenging, our new students who have just graduated high school expect it. These students spent a significant portion of their high school years learning online through any number of platforms because of the pandemic, and they often appreciate flexibility in their learning environment.
UTI continues to innovate to provide our students with the best educational experience possible, and we look forward to being able to serve even more high school graduates, veterans and career-changers through our creative and increased use of education technology.