My name is Irma Borić Jereb, 42, I am a professor of English and Croatian language and literature and I am Head of Adult Education at the National University, an institution for education and culture in Rijeka. I first found out about the EPALE platform in 2017 during a presentation at our institution on the EPALE platform and its activities in collaboration with ASOO. Since then, we have begun to actively monitor the information and activities of the EPALE community.
''Čovjek uči dok je živ''/ ''Live and learn''- is a popular proverb in the Croatian and English languages. Yet, due to the COVID-19 pandemic it has become a daily motto of all employees in adult education.
This time it is us teachers who are the ones who have had to learn.
Overnight, we have had to adapt to a new reality and find solutions that would continue to provide new knowledge and skills to the participants of our educational programs, but outside the classroom, away from the school desks. I work at the National University - an institution for education and culture in Rijeka, and I have been teaching adults for more than 15 years. As a lecturer of English and Croatian for foreigners, experience has taught me that in teaching we should always look for new solutions, research teaching methods, adapt topics and teaching contents to the needs of students, change and combine teaching activities with all available teaching aids in order to be more dynamic and interesting. As head of the institution for the last five years, I have gained valuable experience in organising the implementation of teaching and other educational programs, in addition to teaching foreign languages. The measures taken due to the danger posed by the pandemic required the rapid action of all of us employees in adult education in order to continue teaching within the framework that is possible outside the institution. In the first week we managed to organise online classes through the Moodle e-learning platform. In this way, we continued the educational process for all high school and retraining programs. Our associates and subject professors provide us with teaching materials and content for e-learning in the form of presentations, quizzes, word documents, video links or questions for repetition and self-assessment. Our lecturers are on hand to answer any questions from participants via e-mail. The feedback from our participants is very positive and we are very happy because we know that we are on the right track towards achieving a common goal.
- "I am doing great so far. Everything is well explained, the portal is quite easy to use, and I find the materials useful and fun. So far, I have no issues and I also thank you for your availability! ''
- "I thank you for your efforts and for meeting me while I was getting used to the new system, and for always contacting me. I feel safe and independent with you. Thanks again.''
- ''I reviewed the course presentations that were put on the e-learning platform. Thank you for making the platform so simple and easy to use. The content of the material presentations is concise, so the material is easy to understand.''
Foreign language teaching has posed a greater challenge, as language learning focuses on the development of five skills (listening, reading, speech interaction, speech production and writing) and it is important to ensure an equal distribution of teaching activities that support their acquisition. After exchanging experiences and exploring different options for virtual teaching, we decided to open virtual classrooms for foreign language students through the Google classroom application. This type of distance teaching enables the simultaneous presence of all students and teachers, and the platform supports the giving of instructions and tasks, teaching school and homework, and communication on the platform is two-way. In addition to the Google classroom, foreign language classes are held via live video connection through applications that are available to the lecturer and students, depending on the group (Skype, Viber, Zoom, Messenger, Google Duo). The effect of this form of teaching on our lecturers and the reactions of the participants are as follows:
- Foreign language lecturer at the National University: ''...we have been using Google classroom, and since last Tuesday we have also used Zoom (we have held classes from 18.30 to 20.00 on Zoom, and I set everything we did in the Google classroom for those who were not at the meeting). I think that both tools are of a good quality. They have a lot of potential in online teaching. At this stage I am still getting used to them, so I believe that I am not using them to their full potential. Although, honestly, I think online teaching in general has a lot of potential and I find it very interesting to learn about it. As for the participants, I think that this solution is acceptable to them given the current situation.''
As results of the survey I sent them regarding their satisfaction with online teaching participants said:
- ''I am responding because I would like to continue to follow classes online. The scope of the tasks is, in my opinion, quite good to stay up to date with the material and I will support this kind of teaching for as long as we have to.''
- "I am letting you know how this way of working suits me. I solve tasks, and I will upload them as soon as I solve them. I also like the video teaching when we agree with our dear professor.''
- ''All praise for the effort and organisation.''
- "I report that I am satisfied with this way of communicating with the professor, and with this way of learning and solving tasks. I wish the online mode would continue given the situation we are in.''
The greatest motivation for work, learning and training comes from such feedback from our students, which addressed my concerns about the reaction of students to online classes.
By working together, we have faced a challenge and overcome an unprecedented obstacle. It is a big step forward in this situation of uncertainty that has brought me both personal and professional satisfaction.
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