e-learning in Iceland in the times of Covid-19
In these strange times, where people are supposed to stay at home as much as they possibly can, people full of initiative have almost fallen over each other to offer all sorts of e-learning. In Iceland there is news almost every day on new courses, often completely free of charge, in other cases costing a low amount. There is even a combination of those two options available, the course itself is free but should the students want some sort of a certificate, they must pay a small fee. Where there are costs involved, many of the labour unions and employers’ organisations have opened the possibility of paying the full course fee directly out of their educational funds. The rule until now has been that 75% of such costs were refundable from these funds, into which both employers and employees pay a monthly fee.
Here are some of the offers:
- The Lifelong Learning Centres offer a wide variety of online courses, both job-related and for fun. There has been a huge demand for courses which teach people to relax and not to worry in this time of crises, all forms of physical exercises for people who are working from home, often in situations which are inferior to what they are used to at their workplace.
- In cooperation with various educational providers, the Tourism Skills Centre is offering a wide variety of courses aimed at people working in the sector. Many of them have either lost their jobs (hopefully only temporarily) and others are working part time. There is therefore plenty of time to learn something new, which will be useful when people start travelling again.
- Idan, Education Centre, which provides training for VET professionals has made a variety of courses available to its target group. The most popular have however been the funny “breaks on a Friday '' provided by comedian Ari Edjárn. Like everyone else, he is working from home, equipped with a laptop computer and a bottle of sanitizer.
- Several teachers of the University of Iceland and the University of Akureyri held online educational camps on March 26, where each of them shared useful tools and techniques for online teaching.
- University students have received unexpected training during the Covid Crisis. While students in the final year of medicine, nursing and other such disciplines have been manning watches in the hospitals under strict supervision, students of psychology have been offering online consultations for their co-students and their families, who are suffering from different forms of anxiety. The demands for their services have been climbing rapidly and the waiting list is getting longer by the day.
- The University of Iceland has for some time offered free online courses through the edex cooperation of many world-famous universities. The supply has been increased and five courses are now available (see https://www.edx.org/course?search_query=university+of+iceland), all connected to the Icelandic nature, the saga and Icelandic sheep!
- Private people, who may be only partly employed, also come up with new ideas. In the newspaper Fréttablaðið on the 30th of March, there is e.g. an interview with a mother and her son who developed courses for elderly people on the utilisation of all sorts of online tools. After having taught this course once with the students present, they are now developing an online version. The main problem is that it is difficult to use the same technology which people lack the knowledge of, to teach them how to use it. The first solution they found were simple YouTube videos, which teach people the magic of online learning in very small steps.
It will be interesting to see how things develop with all this e-learning, once the corona virus has been conquered. Many students might want to explore the possibilities of validations of what they have learned, either for further studies in e.g. upper secondary schools or universities while others may want to see whether they cannot get a new or better job with the skills they have acquired during this lull in the usual hyper activity which seems to be the normal situation in Iceland.