In response to the global pandemic, the whole education system shifted to online settings in a matter of days. But teaching remotely poses a major challenge: how to engage effectively with students in isolation. We were sure that the Ketso principles of structured group discussions could be applied to remote lectures and workshops, so we invented Ketso Connect as a solution. We are pleased to report Ketso Connect is now being ordered and used by universities around the world.

There are enormous challenges facing students and staff returning to or starting at university this autumn, so new solutions are needed. Created to help solve problems thrown up by the 2020 pandemic’s new rules of distancing, Ketso Connect proves the adage that necessity is the mother of invention.

Online sessions are not the same as face-to-face teaching. You cannot always interpret social cues to the same extent and you don’t flow with the group. You don’t have that same sense of community or of learning together, which is the hallmark of the lecture and classroom environment.

Why universities are ordering Ketso Connect

A lot of work has been done by universities to make online learning and lectures work, but there are still challenges in maintaining active engagement with the learning. Ketso Connect is a hands-on physical method that takes a student’s eyes away from the screen for a few minutes, to process, plan and order what is being communicated. Human beings need ways to break up online sessions, we were not designed to stare at a screen for hours with laser focus. This innovative kit can help a student structure the shared insights of the group and their own thoughts in a way that is far more powerful than just taking notes on paper.

“Human beings need ways to break up online sessions, we were not designed to stare.”

Ketso Connect has only recently been put to market, and yet the idea of it has already begun to capture the attention of universities around the world. We have had orders and interest from universities in the UK, USA, Nigeria, New Zealand, France and Poland. Dr. Susan O’Shea, of Manchester Metropolitan University, worked with her Sociology department to buy 520 kits for use by incoming students this year.

“Personally, I like that idea of moving away from the screen, even when in an online session,” she explained when we asked for feedback. “Our attention span wains after twenty minutes of staring at a screen. It may not be possible to see people’s faces in the group so we sometime lose the social cues we might have in physical classrooms. Ketso Connect allows students time to think and reflect, yet to stay connected to one another. Having a tool like this allows us to take some of the core elements of participatory education and quickly adapt them for blended learning contexts.”

A non-digital solution for visual learning

Shoshanah Inwood, Assistant Professor at Ohio State University in the USA, explained her decision to order Ketso Connects was partly because she was worried about how to shift her engaged pedagogical approach to an online setting for students who are more visual and tactile learners. She was excited to see how Ketso’s tactile approach could support students in their online learning.

In addition, she felt these individual kits would encourage more active self-directed learning. She commented: “I hope that Ketso Connect will enable students to do the background analysing and mapping and come to class with better mastery of the readings, issues and connections, and thereby facilitate more enriched learning and conversations that can go deeper than if we had to spend time working on the background only.”

Notably, it also offered something that was not software based, as an over-reliance on technological solutions can increase the digital divide for students with less access to subscription-only software and high-speed broadband.

We have been overwhelmed with the success of this innovation and want universities and colleges to know about this opportunity to support their students. It offers a new experience, a personal way to structure ideas, and can even be branded with the university name and logo for a sense of community. If you want to know more, please do contact us.