Fierce Education Launches to Help Ecosystem Evolve in Age of COVID

Questex recently launched into a new market with Fierce Education. PR Vibes™ spoke with Kathleen Connolly, market leader of Fierce Education, and Elliot Markowitz, head of content, to discuss the challenges in the education market in an age of COVID and how the newest Fierce media outlet is helping the ecosystem rethink the way higher education works.

Tell us a little about Fierce Education. What is it?

As a brand, Fierce Education will focus on areas in the higher education market impacted by the new blended learning environment—from the courseware that is used all the way to the challenges and successes found in embracing new technologies and keeping students engaged and motivated in colleges and universities in and beyond COVID.

How did you get started?

We launched with Arizona State University (ASU) with an online program that drew more than 50,000 registrants consisting of higher education faculty, instructors, provosts, presidents, and purchasing influencers. The event was build in eight weeks and had more than 80 sessions designed to help university administrators, provosts, and faculty members deal with the changing industry.

We saw a huge opportunity in rethinking the way higher education is conducted. An evolution had started in higher ed, and COVID accelerated it. Everything is being rethought, from connectivity to courseware. Everyone is trying to find balance in this new remote learning environment. Students have different needs and backgrounds. And that’s where we come in. The goal, and our mission statement, is “rethinking higher education pedagogy in a blended learning world.”

Who are you trying to reach?

Our core audiences is the education community who are working together: faculty, administrators, CIOs, CMOs, COOs. All need guidance navigating the new tools, platforms, and technologies available to meet the new demands in this market.

Many are struggling with big, overarching issues while others just need to know how to work camera angles to ensure their students can see both the professor and the white board. There are challenges for everyone, and we want to help solve this by offering tips and best practices, and sharing successes of how innovative instructors and universities are reaching and teaching their students.

Where are you seeing the biggest challenges in this new environment?

We’re seeing challenges with faculty members navigating the digital environments. The students were brought up in a digital world, so many are having an easier time navigating this new reality. Meanwhile many teachers are struggling with a lot of things. Access is one, but also things like setting up a camera to show both themselves and anything they’ve written on a white board, and so on. On the student side, there are challenges with student engagement. They are more comfortable learning online, but are experiencing issues such as staying motivated and accessing materials. Meanwhile, many teachers are not comfortable with teaching online, and holding student engagement for longer time periods.

What are you providing to help them overcome these challenges?

As part of our coverage, we will continuously be showcasing best practices, tips, and secret sauce stories about educators who have done it right in engaging with students. For example, Georgia State and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) are good examples of universities that invested long before the COVID crisis. They had technology in place and teachers trained. They were ready for this quick transition and could therefore focus on student experience, allowing for more active and inclusive learning environments.

Content will include stories that help university decision-makers make sure they have the right tools and platforms for their university and their point in the journey. An additional theme we’re seeing with students is each group is looking at things through a trauma-filled lens. Many students are really having trouble concentrating, so what tools can educators use to make sure they are engaged and learning?

We want to get teachers talking about where they were able to adopt something new and it’s working. Engagement spreads from the teacher to the student and back. We want to be that morning – or evening – inspiration for teachers to see what’s achievable. Some things are basic, like how to use video better, and some are more complicated, like redesigning courseware to help students learn more easily. Just as teachers are becoming more comfortable with delivering multi-modal student experiences, delivering multichannel content on Fierceeducation.com is very important to us—it’s something our parent company, Questex, is known for.

One of the things Fierce has been known for is its awards programs. Will that continue with Fierce Education?

Absolutely, and in a number of ways. We will be doing it quickly, getting teachers to nominate other educators. But the sky is the limit here. We’re brainstorming all the time, but you can envision things like Fierce Educators, Fierce Universities, Fierce Departments. We plant to highlight those instructors that are using technologies and methods in an innovative way to engage their students.

What else should we expect?

As you can see from some of our recent coverage, we’re digging a layer or two below the basic stories to showcase things like case studies, and where and how this new model is working well. Then there are also a lot of bigger issues where universities need to look at their business model, for example, cost—how do you charge a student who will be remote, etc.

Then, of course, there is the courseware side of things, and that’s a huge opportunity for both traditional suppliers and newcomers, everything from tech platform providers to video conferencing to learning management systems to food services. Changes in higher ed impacts the whole ecosystem, from suppliers to schools and the students. They are being forced to rethink what they are doing to drive accessibility, inclusivity, and equity in the higher ed market. We hope to cover the whole community and help them all evolve.

The Fierce model is about going boldly into a market and doing it in a challenging way. Our focus is on best practices, not just academia, but what are some real things teachers are doing to address the move to distance and blended learning. The Fierce brand is also fun, and we’ll be challenging educators to be fierce.

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