Distance learning as it is experienced by its users

Partner:Center for Social Innovation

Friday,28th of July, 2023.

 

Based on 6[1] countries reports[2] (including desk research, focus groups and mobile ethnography)

In recent years, education has seen a shift from physical spaces to online learning, or e-learning. While this new type of learning comes with its own set of benefits, there are also some disadvantages. Nonetheless, e-learning was quite positively met by the academic community until the time when most of the world had to turn to distance learning due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. During the crisis, many academic institutions, students and teachers went through a turbulent experience switching fully to online education.

The PLACEDU research explored the impact of online learning in 6 different countries, highlighting the need for a variety of solutions to choose from.

Country specific context

While all countries share quite similar challenges and possibilities related to distance learning, there are also some unique features that could be perceived country-specific:

     Cyprus:

The closure of all school units in Cyprus, including higher education institutions was announced on 11 March 2020[3]. Some of the main challenges academic staff and students had to overcome were technical, pedagogical, but also practical in nature: In the beginning, the entire process was significantly time-consuming, as staff tried to familiarise themselves with the new tools, while amending teaching material to better suit online lectures and thinking of ways to better interact with and engage students in the online setting. Furthermore, due to the lack of physical interaction, communication with students was severely affected, while a lack of continuation, participation and discussion during lectures was also noted, which deteriorated over time. In some instances, such as in the case of laboratories, alternative teaching methods were either altogether not possible, or extremely difficult. Likewise, students faced a lot of issues with the new technologies, missed important updates or were not unaware of material uploaded on the digital teaching platforms, which often resulted in delays or overall confusion. Gradually, students were becoming all the more demotivated, lost focus and concentration easily, and were unwilling to participate in online activities.

 

PLACEDU project will form a platform where a variety of challenges in remote education will be addressed. Additionally, training will be created in order to enhance teachers’ competencies.

  • Although there are some measures that have been taken, it is obvious that teachers need more training for e-teaching and students need more training for e-learning.
  • It is important to rethink classes in a new setting and understand that some features that have been working during face-to-face classes, may not work in a virtual environment.
  • Inevitably, one should strive for all classes (if this is possible) to be more interactive and encourage active student participation. Online classrooms should not be used only as a repository for materials and as support but also as an interactive learning environment.

PLACEDU will strengthen digital skills as a transversal topic of the curriculum. The switch to online learning has exacerbated existing educational inequalities resulting both in learning losses and in educational disengagement. Support is needed for academic and administrative staff at education institutions on how to replace on-site teaching with online delivery. Teaching methods, textbooks, etc. need to be adapted for distance education, and a qualitative upgrade at many levels of teaching, use of technology, etc. is needed.

However, the focus will be on teachers and students’ physical and mental well-being. As regular contact between students and teachers can help improve motivation and engagement in the learning process, it is key to foster a more direct exchange between educators and learners.

So what will be the next normal in education? How will it look and feel like?

Are demotivated students and teachers staring at a black screen the NEXT NORMAL in education?

PLACEDU will do its best to tackle the drawbacks of distance learning.

The PLACEDU Project Coordinator, Žemartas Budrys:

“The aim of the project is to draw attention to the drawbacks of distance learning and address them. By providing a range of tools and methods designed to combat isolation, facilitate communication and social interaction, and support the mental and emotional well-being of both students and teachers, PLACE has the potential to significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of online learning. This is an important development that will help to ensure that students have access to high-quality education, regardless of their location or circumstances.”

 CSI’s project manager for PLACEDU, Foteini Papadopoulou, stated:

“The PLACEDU project in Cyprus will help address some of the difficulties associated with distance learning. Program tools and methods will be provided for teachers and staff to help them adapt to online learning, improve teachers’ digital skills, enhance online learning quality and effectiveness, and promote students’ and teachers’ well-being.”

For more information about the project visit https://placedu-project.com/

 

The PLACEDU project is implemented by 7 partners from 6 countries: Lithuania (XWHY and Vilnius University), Slovenia (University of Ljubljana), Cyprus (CSI), Belgium (OTB International), Iceland (University of Island), and Greece (KMOP Education & Innovation Hub).

The project is co-financed by the Erasmus+ KA2 Programme of the European Commission.