At one time, working and studying from home was a rare occurrence, with very few organizations equipped to offer it as an option. However, over the last twelve months and during the school year, it has become a necessary part of everyday life. In reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, many higher education organizations had to implement emergency remote learning solutions quickly but are now looking to implement more long-term facilities for remote learning.

In this article, we will explore the new prominence of remote learning in higher education and what it means for a student, examine the definition of remote learning and see how it is being used and what its future is within the higher education sector.

Prominence of remote learning in higher education

As we have already mentioned, many higher education organizations were not set up to accommodate remote learning before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This meant that universities had to scramble to make the move to remote learning and remote teaching immediately, in order to keep students engaged, educated and satisfied.

Now, remote learning has become something that is here to stay and organizations are looking to offer on a long-term basis rather than as a reactionary solution. The success of remote learning proves that either offering a completely remote option or moving to a blended learning model may work best in the future.

This could vastly improve the student experience, encouraging those who would not have previously had studying be as accessible to them.

What is the definition of remote learning?

When talking about the remote learning definition, also known as distance learning, it can be difficult to know exactly what is meant by this. The definition of remote learning is that the student and their teacher, or the source of their information or study materials, are separated by some distance. The course can no longer be taught in person.

This means that students and the institution they’re part of must adapt to learn in a way that is outside of the traditional classroom setting, usually utilising technology such as computers or mobile devices to do this and maintain the learning experience for students. Students are able to access all course materials and resources without having to be on campus or use university owned devices.

How is remote learning being used within higher education?

In the higher education setting, online learning has proven to be very useful for both student learning and faculty members.

Access resources anytime, anywhere

Remote learning allows students to access online course resources, wherever they are, whenever they need to. This is convenient for students when compared to being constrained by traditional classroom learning and offers better continuity of education if students are unable to attend campus for any reason.

It also allows students to access lectures from their teacher and material from home whilst campuses are closed and maintain student engagement, even when they’re not able to attend an on campus lesson or access resources.

Enable online learning

Thanks to online learning, organizations have been able to offer online teaching during the pandemic, allowing every student to access university software without being in campus labs, in which social distancing can be a problem. In addition, students will be provided with access to everything they need to study for exams or complete an assignment that requires specialist software.

On an ongoing basis, an online education provides universities with the opportunity to free up IT departments from looking after campus labs and maintaining the hardware and software. With larger number of students in the universities, campus labs can be limiting, whereas allowing students to have remote access all the time means they can use the software whenever they need to without having to wait for a free computer.

Works perfectly with BYOD

Remote learning is the perfect complement to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. This allows students to use their own devices rather than using desktop PCs on campus, which supports the continuity of education offered by both BYOD and remote learning.

What does remote learning mean for the future of education?

So, once the COVID-19 pandemic is over and students can return to campus, how has remote learning changed the face of education?

Improve student experience

The future of education is looking brighter than ever, thanks to the early adoption of remote learning being such a success. As remote learning carries on into the future, it will help to enhance the student experience, even if students cannot be on campus at all times.

Remote learning is likely to provide universities with the option to give students a chance at a hybrid learning approach whereby they are able to access the resources they need from home without travelling to campus and travelling to campus where required.

Attract more students in the future

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations were facing increasing calls from students to offer BYOD and remote learning solutions and the pandemic has forced many to implement it quickly.

The universities who keep the remote learning facilities in place may attract more students in the future and improve attendance. In addition, students who living in remote parts of the country or those who find it difficult to leave the house for health reasons may have better access to courses.

To take advantage of these benefits, organizations will need to find long-term, cost-effective remote learning solutions. Fortunately, there are many great options out there for higher education organizations looking to set up remote or hybrid learning as a more permanent solution.

Tools being used to facilitate remote learning in higher education

There are several tools being utilised in order to facilitate remote learning and make it a success for higher education settings.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

A popular option for facilitating remote learning is VDI. This gives end-users access to a virtual desktop, recreating the information they would find on a physical desktop. It also allows, to some extent, a similar feeling. Individual users can adapt their own desktop to suit their needs, as this is a very bespoke option and provides students with their own adaptable environment to study in.


Another option is Remote Desktop Services (RDS). With RDS, end users are connected to a virtual machine or operating system. Unlike with VDI, this means students do not have a dedicated virtual environment for themselves, they share applications, making it perfect for providing students with access to the software and resources they need.

Virtual labs

Virtual labs are also being used for remote learning purposes. Virtual labs mean that students can connect to campus labs and access the resources on physical desktops belonging to the university and can create a virtual classroom to give students what they need.

This is invaluable during the current circumstances where social distancing means fewer students can access campus labs.


Remote learning has encouraged the use of bring your own device (BYOD) policies to thrive. At the current time, this means that students have had easy access to their university work and learning environments, but going forward it will allow for greater continuity of learning when employing a hybrid model.

To find out more about remote or virtual learning and how to facilitate it within a higher education organization, please contact our expert team today.