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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


Sonja Karbon, a Community Story from Austria

by EPALE Moderator
Language: EN

Sonja Karbon

I am 37 and I am the manager of the Women’s Profession Centre Tyrol and EU projects. I am also a university lecturer and am working self-employed in the field of seminars, coaching, and organisational development. I have a certificate in Education Sciences, a Master’s degree in International Health and Social Management, and a Master’s degree in Organisational Consulting and Development. I have more than 10 years of experience in the education field. My areas of interest are sustainability, education 4.0, career counselling, labour market policy and changes in the working world, digitalisation, women and leadership. I work at Frauen im Brennpunkt and Karbon Consulting.

I heard about EPALE through the national Austrian agency while working on the Erasmus+ projects and at the annual EPALE conferences. I signed up in 2008. EPALE is a good platform to publish our work in connection with EU projects as well as to network with other European experts. EPALE takes current issues such as climate protection or changes in the working world and relates them to adult education. This innovative approach allows for a shift in perspective on multiple levels. In the process, the role of the adult educator is redefined in order to be able to react to future developments and entrench education on a lasting basis.

The effects of COVID-19 on the working world initiated a point of no return. Transformations had already been visible in recent years and NOW new forms of working are becoming even more patent. Key aspects here include the flexibility of the workplace, tolerance for ambiguity in handling unforeseeable developments, new forms of communication as a result of digitalisation, and so on.

My professional life has also changed, but at the same time it really hasn’t. Due to the lockdown, a complete switch to working from home was unavoidable. The first few days were all about crisis management in order to get the team what they needed and switch the previous face-to-face consulting over to online consulting. After that, my task as a manager was to support this new working structure. Anyone who believes that working from home is the key to finding freedom in their work was proven wrong by COVID-19. Working from home often requires much more discipline. The eradication of working hour structures such as core working hours and flexitime requires a reassessment of how to work efficiently and effectively at home. In this respect, a few new aspects such as those listed above were added to my professional life, and I continue to follow them with interest and curiosity.

I would like to share my experiences with e-learning based on the example of a course I held on the topic of “Intercultural Competence & Diversity” at the Management Centre Innsbruck this semester.
Due to the switch from classroom teaching to online teaching, I had to reorganise my curriculum accordingly because we were not able to do classroom exercises as planned. The program that was provided for online instruction by the university of applied sciences made it possible to perform various functions such as chatting, coordination, virtual workgroups, and so forth. Together with the students, I used this digital “playground” to make the online teaching interactive. The traditional lecture format that was typical in the 20th century and is sometimes used even today was replaced with e-learning.

For me, one of the key aspects of education 4.0 is that teachers and students learn together. Digitalisation is not a static field, but a dynamic one!

As quickly as this “playground” is changing and developing, teachers have to allow themselves to act according to the motto of “Leave some space for imperfection”. Looking back, I am pleased to say that my experiences with online teaching were very positive and that it was really, really fun to experience intercultural competences in this new format. Naturally, online teaching cannot entirely replace face-to-face teaching, but it has created a wonderful supplement that allows people to experience education in this new age.
My learners are surprisingly open and curious about the topic. One particularly important aspect here is to continue interacting, to organise communication in new ways so that students stay “on board”.

The digital world opens up many possibilities and although communication on a personal level may not be possible or even necessary, distance learning requires much more communication in order to stay in contact with one another. The observation of group dynamics or the state of being in a relationship in the sense of the resonance principle have to be rethought in this context, because as advanced as artificial intelligence (AI) may be, we are still humans who want to be connected with one another.

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