During our last on-site courses at the Vestifex training centre on March 13, we realised that tomorrow we would have to teach the two classes online. We only had that evening to prepare. There were so many questions, from which platform to use and how to ensure active student engagement, to how to cover all of the key topics and achieve the desired results. We weren’t sure whether the Internet connection will be stable and whether all students will be able to set everything up and join in time. In the end, it all worked out, and we were very happy that it did! Thus began our remote work, full of excitement and discoveries.
Since our learning environment is very important for us, we were worried about maintaining it online. Without our cosy classrooms, delicious coffee breaks, supportive communication and all those little things that evoke trust and inspiration, encouraging the person to think, create, and grow together with the group. All of our worries disappeared during the very first online class: the students themselves created a wonderful learning atmosphere. As usual, people started gathering in advance, allowing all of us to get to know each other’s children, pets, talk about home makeovers, paintings, hobbies, etc. During the breaks, one of the students played the guitar, uniting everyone with his music and granting some relief to those from other cities worried about what tomorrow may bring.
We are now using ZOOM for classes and individual consultations. ZOOM allows us to conduct video lessons where we can see everyone, work in pairs or groups, send files, record videos, and share screens. Google docs, forms and slides, along with Mentimeter, are well-suited for other activities, including brainstorming, tasks and exercises, and feedback. We use a tool called Loom to record video presentations, instructional videos and theoretical lectures, so as not to waste time during class. Using the same tool, we can provide feedback on the student’s work.
Our foreign volunteers started making Instagram Live streams dedicated to cooking their national dishes, playing games or training.
We have used all of the skills and ideas that were accumulated but never implemented. We plan to explore and implement other features as well.
Our forced isolation came with a lot of anxiety, forcing changes of plans and cancellation of travel and international project meetings, but there is at least one good thing to come out of it: we have finally managed to achieve what we wanted to but could never bring ourselves to do.
Jelena Lohmatova is a qualified adult educator (level VII), member of the board of Estonian Association of Adult Educators (ANDRAS), EPALE ambassador in Estonia, the best adult educator of Ida-Virumaa and the best adult educator of Estonia in 2014. She has a Master's Degree in educational sciences (Tallinn University, Andragogy department). She has been organising courses for adult educators since 2012. Jelena is leading two organisations: Vestifex Adult Education Centre and Non-formal learning centre VitaTiim