Online Learning and Emergency Remote Teaching: Opportunities and Challenges in Emergency Situations
2. Related Works
3. Materials and Methods
4. Results of the Forum Discussion: Open Challenges of Emergency Remote Teaching
4.1. Technological Challenges
Just think of families where there is more than one child in school with no or one computer. This means that in parallel only one child can take part in a digital online education course.
In Hungary, we have initiated the collection of offers of ICT companies. They could offer technological help (e.g., installation), offer a platform to be used for free for x months, use computers for families, etc.. This has since been extended by the government, making it a bit bigger, but still, there is a huge need for much better coordination and more support. There is a community where teachers can offer their free time to help families who need it.
Even in Estonia, the networks are not so complete. Our kids had some issues with the Internet and also with devices. It was nice to see that IT communities started to offer the computers for those families who had problems with enabling the devices for learning, and they donated devices for free!
The acute challenges are electricity and technology. Let alone the developed countries, many villages in developing countries don’t get proper electricity. Regardless of that, there are so many who use their phones to do their homework. It’s possible of course but in the long term, it is going to have serious detrimental effects on the education quality and level.
In London and the UK, the Wifi has been down a lot! According to the UK providers, ‘the population across the UK is using the Wifi connection more than ever’! I have been, personally, ‘ICT challanged’ from the start of the lockdown! I have been using three different Wifi connections and mobile data from my iPhone!
The problem with the Internet connection definitely will change with the development of 5G: bigger data amounts can be transferred and in situations like with the coronavirus it may have benefits.
There is an overly extended exposure of students on digital devices from PCs1 to tablets to smartphones. These changes have been forced on students and society in less than two weeks, and many ethical steps have been forgotten for the sake of health. If a change is not opportunely prpared or planned, it can never be sustainable.
I think there is so much more space for hacking/cybercrime. Especially when it comes to children. More of their private information is being stored online. A lot of institutions also use niche services. Especially those institutions that didn’t have any remote learning technologies before are most probably not aiming at implementing their own long-term expensive option and would prefer to opt for a short-term solution.
4.2. Pedagogical Challenges
Pedagogical patterns must be different in virtual classrooms. In the virtual classroom, the educator is more like a moderator and consultant, and lessons cannot be arranged as in a physical classroom. Therefore, learning, especially guidance and feedback, should be given in a different way.
Criticalities and limitations appeared to be the teachers’ skills; students are more skilled in digital issues as they spend a lot of time engaged in digital communication. Teachers need to manage several operational environments and in the beginning it is messy, with technical problems, a lack of knowledge of the options in certain environments, etc.
Countries like Hungary where the day starts with the teacher collecting the digital devices from the children and are highlighted as forbidden tools … IT education meant Microsoft Office basic use … these children, parents and teachers now face a huge challenge and it is not a wonder that the change is big, but we are still far from digital education and even online education.
In this case, IT infrastructure is playing a fundamental role. I am not talking about the lack of proper digital devices. You cannot ask a boy or girl to spend six to eight hours a day watching lessons on a smartphone. This is mainly also due to the lack of optimised digital content. I think the opportunity, in the medium to long term, is that we understand how to be connected, what to say, what to ask students.
Parents who were by now against digital devices and encouraged their children not to use them, even for learning purposes, faced that their children didn’t want to use these devices, as they didn’t actually know how to use them. This caused in many families a huge issue. I believe that ICT technologies and devices need to be used by children even in their early ages, but there is a need for control over what and how they use them.
Teaching is different from assessment. This is where remote learning falls short, whether you take biology labs, violin performances, or sports assessments as exams or even graduation projects.
Professors and teachers have been under more pressure, not all of them have lectures ready to be presented online, but it is educative and gives a nice boost to the next generation’s learning. I hope the next steps are e-learning facilities in secondary schools as well.
Platforms can support as much human interaction as possible (multimedia): teachers should be perceived as ‘humans’ and not some other teaching bot or an artificial agent available online. Interaction is key, I feel.
Learners and teachers should support each other, but teachers may lose their position in learning: learning will go in the direction of cooperation.
The older generations need to catch up with the younger generations’ use of IT. Gen Z in general functions in different online communities quite naturally. If there is a joint shared interest it is going to work, I believe.
4.3. Social Challenges
Human interaction is fundamental, especially for young students (secondary, primary schools) that need to learn. Only good professors/teachers can do it.
We need face-to-face interactions, we need to feel emotions, and that can not be given by a 100% remote experience.
Honestly I do not think that everything would go online; I believe that things will go back to ‘normal’ in the future but there will be a larger percentage of digitally available education. Physical classes will not disappear at all and communities will stay alive; people are social, they need interaction.
My eldest studies at an Austrian university and they switched to fully digital when the State decided. It was quite funny seeing the exams when you are sitting at home with all the family, but no one was allowed to be in the same room for five hours. There’s still a way to go... there is no copy-paste possible from the regular classroom to the web classroom.
Small children need their parents’ support, so what about the parent who is not able to work because they must play the teacher’s role? How do parents work if they also need to look after their children at home? Studying (and playing)? This might end up disrupting the global economic model in the long run: work productivity will go down.
5. The Italian Case Study
- protocols with the Professional Order of Psychologists to manage the emotional effects of the lockdown on students, school staff and families;
- agreements with mobile phone companies, for discounts on costs for connection;
- support actions to ensure that local authorities continue to complete the infrastructure that guarantees coverage of the entire national territory with broadband.
- Reliable network infrastructure needs to be developed. Teachers, students and parents must have connectivity that allows them to be able to take lessons remotely even when other people in the same house are doing other online activities. In fact, the results of the online discussion forum underlined that the intensive use of networks during the pandemic crisis has produced connection failures in several countries, including Estonia, which is technologically advanced. One suggestion of experts was to develop 5G.
- More affordable devices must be provided. Devices such as tablets or computers to be connected should be less expensive and Governments should give households incentives to buy them. All the involved actors must have suitable devices to follow a lesson remotely in the most comfortable way. This issue was underlined by the experts, in particular for families with more than one child. Moreover, for the Italian case study, the DESI Index shows that many families do not have a laptop or PC, even though this country has the highest rate of ownership of mobile phones in the world. The European Commission (EC) can play a key role in boosting facilities and infrastructure for online learning. This is also in line with the EC action plan to help individuals, educational institutions and education systems to better adapt for life and work in an age of rapid digital change.
- Diverse modalities (telecourses, TV, radio, online courses) should be used to provide accessible learning experiences for students in remote areas, as already seen in some countries. The experts provided examples of Croatia and Serbia as countries where these modalities have been successfully implemented. This challenge has also been suggested by Eder .
- Systematic training initiatives should be provided to improve teachers’ and learners’ technological skills in relation to new emerging models and approaches encouraging the effective use of online learning. The results of this study revealed that in various countries there are challenges related to gaps in digital literacy in education among teachers, students and parents. For example, in Hungary, there is no digital education and/or online education.
- A clear and consistent plan should be developed, providing structured and planned educational material (content, methodologies and common goals) and more adequate e-learning platforms by using interactive suitable digital learning resources (video, animations, quizzes and games) to maintain students’ attention. For example, in Italy, there emerged on one hand a wide choice of technological platforms and on the other very poorly organised and certified content for online learning. Co-creation platforms could be developed and made available, encouraging students’ participation in content creation and their inclusion in the learning process.
- Strategies for communication and digital education assessment need to be created. The lack of student feedback has also been underlined by . According to the experts who participated in the forum, teachers should communicate consistently and often with students so that they do not feel isolated and confused. They should maintain constant contact with students, for example by creating a community group, sending them e-mails twice a week and setting up a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section so that all students can benefit from other students’ questions. The experts emphasised that a community of learners and teachers can be built by increasing “human” cyber interaction.
- A blended approach should be used whenever possible to reinforce a feeling of community belonging, thereby improving social interaction and collaboration among learners and between learners and teachers. According to experts, students need face-to-face interactions, so face-to-face lessons should complement online lessons.
- Technologies that use virtual and augmented reality need to be improved, making them widely accessible and therefore more engaging and inclusive, in order to stimulate students’ involvement and interaction. According to experts, some issues include students’ online motivation and involvement. The implementation of these new technologies in online teaching could help in this regard.
- The use of intelligent technologies for remote teaching, like artificial intelligence, needs to be reinforced to encourage personalised, inclusive and participatory online learning paths. This can open up new possibilities and provide added value to online learning, as long as it is integrated with the pedagogical methodologies used by teachers. In fact, in this study a need to personalise learning and make it more effective emerged.
- More inclusive tools, platforms and devices considering different web content accessibility guidelines (e.g., WCAG 2.0) need to be developed in order to make digital learning resources accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities.
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|TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES||Access to infrastructure such as technological devices and an Internet connection.||[8,16,17,18,20,21,22,28]|
|PEDAGOGICAL CHALLENGES||Teachers’ lack of skills in using technology. Need for training and guidelines for teachers and students.||[21,22,23,24]|
|Need for teaching materials in the form of interactive multimedia (images, animations, educational games) to engage and maintain students’ motivation.||[18,23,24]|
|Lack of student feedback and evaluation system.||[18,23,24]|
|SOCIAL CHALLENGES||Lack of suitable home learning environment to study and parents’ support.||[8,16,17,18,19]|
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Ferri, F.; Grifoni, P.; Guzzo, T. Online Learning and Emergency Remote Teaching: Opportunities and Challenges in Emergency Situations. Societies 2020, 10, 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10040086
Ferri F, Grifoni P, Guzzo T. Online Learning and Emergency Remote Teaching: Opportunities and Challenges in Emergency Situations. Societies. 2020; 10(4):86. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10040086Chicago/Turabian Style
Ferri, Fernando, Patrizia Grifoni, and Tiziana Guzzo. 2020. "Online Learning and Emergency Remote Teaching: Opportunities and Challenges in Emergency Situations" Societies 10, no. 4: 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10040086