Distance learning as it is experienced by its users.

Partner: University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland

Distance learning as it is experienced by its users.

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

In recent years, the educational landscape has transitioned from traditional classrooms to the digital realm of e-learning. This evolution brought numerous advantages but also presented challenges. Initially, the academic world embraced e-learning enthusiastically. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced a sudden, widespread shift to online education, leading to a period of adjustment for educators, students, and institutions. The PLACEDU study, which investigated online learning’s effects across six countries, underscored the importance of diverse, adaptable solutions.

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: 

Iceland swiftly transitioned to e-learning across educational tiers as a countermeasure to the educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This rapid move to online education was unanticipated and lacked a formal framework, leaving many educators underprepared without prior e-learning experience and minimal institutional training. The teaching approach varied, with some departments opting for synchronous videoconferencing classes that mirrored the conventional schedule, while others employed asynchronous learning via university digital platforms. This experience inadvertently enhanced educators’ e-learning capabilities, increased student engagement with digital platforms, and fortified the universities’ online administrative functions. With deliberate planning and a cohesive national strategy, Iceland’s foray into distance education demonstrated the potential for remarkable achievements in the realm of online learning.

The PLACEDU initiative will establish a platform to tackle various remote learning challenges and develop training programs to boost educators’ skills in online teaching.

  • Despite existing efforts, there’s a clear need for enhanced e-teaching training for educators and e-learning training for students.
  • Adapting to the digital classroom requires a reevaluation of traditional teaching methods, acknowledging that some strategies effective in person may not translate well online.
  • The goal is to make every class, where feasible, more dynamic and participatory. Virtual classrooms should evolve beyond mere content repositories, becoming vibrant spaces for interactive education.

PLACEDU is set to enhance digital literacy across the curriculum, addressing the educational disparities widened by the shift to online learning, which has led to both learning deficits and a decrease in student engagement. There’s a pressing need to equip academic and administrative personnel with the knowledge to transition from traditional classroom instruction to online formats effectively. This entails adapting teaching methodologies, textbooks, and other resources for remote education and improving the overall quality of instruction, technology use, and more.

Nonetheless, a significant emphasis will be placed on the physical and mental health of teachers and students. Establishing regular interaction between educators and learners is crucial for boosting their motivation and involvement in the educational process, underscoring the importance of promoting direct communication within the academic community.

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, Zemartas 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.

 The representative of the University of Iceland in the project, Sigurbjörg Jóhannesdóttir stated:

” PLACEDU aims to identify the obstacles educators encounter when transitioning from in-person to online instruction, particularly the elements that diminish in the shift to digital learning. The initiative seeks to provide strategies and resources to assist educators in overcoming these hurdles and enhancing their virtual classrooms, with a keen focus on preserving the nuances of traditional teaching online. Additionally, PLACEDU emphasizes the importance of supporting the physical and mental health of both teachers and students, encouraging consistent communication and direct engagement to boost participation and motivation throughout the educational journey. “

[1] Lithuania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Belgium, Iceland, Greece
[2] Different country reports can be reached on our platform.

Monday, 18th of April 2023