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Digital Study Halls: National University Taps Virtual Engagement Platform to Scale Student Support and Humanize Online Learning


National University is pioneering a new approach to online learning that mimics the acoustics and experience of the physical world to deliver powerfully interactive teaching, learning, and collaboration

SAN DIEGO, April 18, 2024 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- National University (NU)?a veteran-founded nonprofit university serving over 50,000 nontraditional, working, and military students annually through its degree programs and one of the largest nonprofit Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in the country?today announced a new technology pilot designed to boost student success and engagement by recreating the impact of face-to-face discussion and collaboration in a completely online setting. In collaboration with education technology firm InSpace, the university will test a suite of immersive new video-conferencing capabilities designed to foster virtual engagement among its diverse students, who balance academic, work, family, and community responsibilities in addition to studying online.

"This is a powerful example of how we can bridge the last mile between student needs and the possibilities of online education." - Dr. Errin Heyman, associate vice president of learning experience at National University

"Making good on the full potential of online learning requires us to create the kind of powerful and lasting human connections and experiences that help students thrive in the classroom and in their careers," said Dr. Errin Heyman, associate vice president of learning experience at National University. "Thanks to rapid advances in emerging technologies like immersive tech, spatial computing, and wearable technology, the lines are blurring even more between the in-person and virtual worlds?and reshaping the contours of the online experience. This is a powerful example of how we can bridge the last mile between student needs and the possibilities of online education."

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced nearly every college or university to embrace online instruction, a growing number of students were already opting to take at least some of their courses online. However, research has consistently shown that students enrolled in online programs often struggle to connect with online learning communities, which can impact their engagement and lead to increased feelings of isolation. To close this gap and ensure that every online student benefits from a rich, engaging, and rigorous experience, National University and InSpace have partnered to offer a more meaningful form of virtual interaction rooted in realistic interpersonal engagement and connection.

At the core of the InSpace platform is the proximity-based audio and next-generation video conferencing capabilities it uses to vividly recreate the experience of in-person spaces for study, collaboration, and discussion. The platform makes it possible for students to interact in a unique style of video conferencing that prioritizes human connection and natural engagement.

For example, students, faculty, and staff can use its suite of virtual engagement tools to organize themselves into lifelike breakouts, discussions, and study sessions, just as they would in a physical library, science lab, study group, or meeting of a student club or organization meeting. This allows for spontaneous interactions, group brainstorming, and impromptu discussions, fostering a sense of community and collaboration that is often lacking in traditional online learning environments.

"National University has been a pioneer in distance education since the dawn of the internet age. What drew us to this partnership was their impressive commitment to pushing technological boundaries and breaking down barriers for the diverse student demographics they serve," said Narine Hall, CEO, and co-founder of InSpace. "This is about building a new kind of online learning community that allows students to come together, collaborate, and form meaningful connections, regardless of physical distance."

The launch is the newest in a series of innovation pilots using emerging technologies to create dynamic and interactive learning experiences, complementing the asynchronous instruction that students receive through the university's unique 4-week course format. In 2023, the university announced the launch of a "digital twin" campus for its School of Health Professions, where nursing students can explore a lifelike simulation of a campus student center and academic building, creating a fully immersive environment for digital instruction and virtual field trips.

As a veteran-founded Minority Serving Institution, National University has a student population that reflects the shifting?and highly diverse?demographics of higher education today. Well-known for its distinctive focus on serving adult learners, educators, and veterans, the university has for more than 50 years honed its unique expertise in developing workforce-relevant degrees and credentials designed specifically for working adults.

For more information about National University, visit NU.edu.

About National University: National University, a veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego's largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 190+ online and on-campus programs with flexible four-week and eight-week classes and one-to-one graduate education models designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to 130,000 learners per year?50,000 degree-seeking students and 80,000 workforce and professional development students?and 230,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. To learn more about National University's new possibilities in education including next-generation education, value-rich education, and whole human education, visit NU.edu.

About InSpace: InSpace is reinventing learning by bringing human connections and experiences to the virtual world with a socially intuitive virtual education platform. By mimicking the natural flow of a classroom through proximity-based audio and freedom of movement, it's the closest educators can come to teaching face-to-face in the virtual space. Putting the student experience first, we've bridged the traditional classroom with the power of technology. InSpace meets SOC2 security guidelines and WCAG 2.0 AA, WCAG 2.1 AA, and 508 accessibility standards.

Media Contact

Ashleigh Webb, National University, 760-889-3494, [email protected], https://www.nu.edu/

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SOURCE National University


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