Challenges of rapid migration to fully virtual education in the age of the Corona virus pandemic: experiences from across the world

Georgiadou, Elli, Berki, Eleni, Valtanen, Juri, Siakas, Kerstin V., Rahanu, Harjinder ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3620-8036, Edwards, J. Adam ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9536-6782, Paltalidis, Nickos, Agouropoulos, Andreas, Hatzipanagos, Stylianos, McGuinness, Claire, Cavanagh, Jerald, Kirby, Padraig, Ojukwu, Dili, Savva, Andreas, Stylianou, Vasso, Plastira, Mary, Gevorgyan, Rita, Ross, Margaret, Staples, Geoff, Knezevic, Ratko, Čolic, Amela, Valkanou, Theodora, Siakas, Errikos, Deshappriy, Nelum, Zirki, Annita, Stoffová, Veronika, Lambrou, Georgia, Morales Calleja, Carlos, Stoffová, Maja, Panteri, Maria, Panteri, Valentina, Zamaraeva, Galina and Panov, Yuri (2020) Challenges of rapid migration to fully virtual education in the age of the Corona virus pandemic: experiences from across the world. Uhomoibhi, James, Dewar, Eleanor, Georgiadou, Elli, Linecar, Peter, Marchbank, Paul, Ross, Margaret and Staples, Geoff, eds. e-Learning as a solution during unprecedented times in the 21st century (INSPIRE 2020 Proceedings). In: Twenty Fifth International Conference on Software Process Improvement Research, Education and Training (INSPIRE XXV), 16 Jul 2020, Online. e-ISBN 9781999654948. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract

The social disruption caused by the sudden eruption of the Corona Virus pandemic has shaken the whole world, influencing all levels of education immensely. Notwithstanding there was a lack of preparedness for this global public health emergency which continues to affect all aspects of work and life. The problem is, naturally, multifaceted, fast evolving and complex, affecting everyone, threatening our well-being, the global economy, the environment and all societal and cultural norms and our everyday activities. In a recent UNESCO report it is noted that nearly a billion and a quarter (which is 67,7 % of the total number) of learners have been affected by the Corona Virus pandemic worldwide.

The education sector at all levels has been one of the hardest hit sectors particularly as the academic/school year was in full swing. The impact of the pandemic is widespread, representing a health hazard worldwide. Being such, it profoundly affects society as a whole, and its members that are, in particular, i) individuals (the learners, their parents, educators, support staff), ii) schools, training organisations, pedagogical institutions and education systems, iii) quickly transformed policies, methods and pedagogies to serve the newly appeared needs of the latter.

Lengthy developments of such scale usually take years of consultation, strategic planning and implementation. In addition to raising awareness across the population of the dangers of the virus transmission and instigating total lockdown, it has been necessary to develop mechanisms for continuing the delivery of education as well as demanding mechanisms for assuring the quality of the educational experience and educational results. There is often scepticism about securing quality standards in such a fast moving situation. Often in the recent past, the perception was that courses and degrees leading to an award are inferior if the course modules (and sometimes its assessment components) were wholly online.

Over the last three decades most Higher Education institutions developed both considerable infrastructure and knowhow enabling distance mode delivery schools (Primary and Secondary) had hardly any necessary infrastructure nor adequate knowhow for enabling virtual education. In addition, community education and various training providers were mainly delivered face-to-face and that had to either stop altogether or rapidly convert materials, exercises and tests for online delivery and testing. A high degree of flexibility and commitment was demanded of all involved and particularly from the educators, who undertook to produce new educational materials in order to provide online support to pupils and students.

Apart from the delivery mode of education, which is serving for certificated programmes, it is essential to ensure that learners’ needs are thoroughly and continuously addressed and are efficiently supported throughout the Coronavirus or any other future lockdown. The latter can be originated by various causes and reasons that vary in nature, such as natural or socioeconomical. Readiness, thus, in addition to preparedness, is the primary key question and solution when it comes to quality education for any lockdown. In most countries, the compulsory primary and secondary education sectors have been facing a more difficult challenge than that faced by Higher Education. The poor or in many cases non-existent technological infrastructure and low technological expertise of the teachers, instructors and parents, make the delivery of virtual education difficult or even impossible. The latter, coupled with phenomena such as social exclusion and digital divide where thousands of households do not have adequate access to broadband Internet, Wi-Fi infrastructure and personal computers hamper the promising and strenuous virtual solutions.

The shockwaves of the sudden demands on all sectors of society and on individuals required rapid decisions and actions. We will not attempt to answer the question “Why was the world unprepared for the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic” but need to ascertain the level of preparedness and readiness particularly of the education sector, to effect the required rapid transition. We aimed to identify the challenges, and problems faced by the educators and their institutions. Through first-hand experiences we also identify best practices and solutions reached. Thus we constructed a questionnaire to gather our own responses but also experiences from colleagues and members of our environment, family, friends, and colleagues. This paper reports the first-hand experiences and knowledge of 33 co-authors from 27 institutions and from 13 different countries from Europe, Asia, and Africa. The communication technologies and development platforms used are identified; the challenges faced as well as solutions and best practices are reported. The findings are consolidated into the four areas explored i.e. Development Platforms, Communications Technologies, Challenges/Problems and Solutions/Best Practices. The conclusion summarises the findings into emerging themes and similarities. Reflections on the lasting impact of the effect of Coronavirus on education, limitations of study, and indications of future work complete the paper.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords (uncontrolled): Virtual education; rapid conversion; COVID-19 pandemic; preparedness; readiness
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Computer Science
Item ID: 31778
Notes on copyright: © 2020 Solent University. Permission granted on 04/01/2021, by Solent University, to make the full text of the published version available in this repository (http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/).
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Depositing User: Adam Edwards
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2021 13:43
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2021 15:56
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/31778

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