Ivana Hrpalo, a Community Story from Croatia
I am 35 years old and I have a degree in economics. I currently work at the Center for Lifelong Learning and Culture Bjelovar as the Head of the Department of Administrative, General and Joint Affairs. In addition to coordinating bookkeeping and preparing financial reports, I also prepare the Procurement Plan for the budget year. I prepare and implement public procurement procedures and I am a lecturer in economics. I am very happy to attend various additional training courses. So far, we have not shared any posts on EPALE, but we have used the platform to research the experiences of others.The situation we are currently facing due to the Coronavirus pandemic is new for all of us, including me. I have faced new challenges, both in my professional and personal life.
Self-isolation measures, social distancing, restrictions on movement, home-schooling and working from home are just some of the changes we have seen in our everyday routines.
In my family, we have been able to organise our daily responsibilities relatively well. My husband is a music teacher so he too has faced the challenges of online teaching, and we have two preschool children who require a lot of our attention. We centred our daily routine around our work schedules and personal commitments, which proved to work well for everyone. I work in an institution with a small number of employees who all have a solid level of digital literacy and have been flexible in their approach to the situation. This has made it easier for me to work from home. Part of my role is to teach adults as part of the verified Independent Accountant program. The program began just before March 16 when classes moved online. Due to the fact that our institution relies on the payments of students and the regular implementation of the program, it was in our interest to continue the programs wherever possible. Of the initial 11 students, one has a severe physical impairment and he dropped out after one week of classes due to reduced motor skills. Finding the right solution that will benefit everyone in this situation is not easy, given that I have no prior experience of preparing online courses. I have seen many limitations of digital teaching which stem from social, technical, and generational differences.
Not all students have the necessary devices or a good enough internet connection to be able to follow these classes.
These challenges are still ongoing, even after almost 2 months of teaching. Distance learning is conducted through platforms that support a virtual learning environment and tools that are already widely used in the education system, such as Skype. Video lectures are accompanied by a presentation of the material, and if necessary, documents in Excel and Word that are available to participants in the form of screen sharing. Participants can ask questions at any point during the lecture. In order to encourage students to continue working, we also conduct simple self-checks (Kahoot). Furthermore, the participants were assigned tasks that they were obliged to solve within a certain period of time and submit their answers to be marked. The main difference between distance learning and classroom lessons is the interaction between lecturers and students. This being said, we must be aware that even the education system today, especially in college, does not allow for a truly interactive relationship between professors and students. However, I am trying to help solve this problem by leaving the option to attendees for individual advice (office hours) and clearing up of any issues once a week after each lecture. After a month of teaching, I conducted an analysis of student satisfaction. The analysis showed that 56% of the participants answered, “Excellent, I would like to have classes like this in the future”, and the other 44% responded with, “Satisfactory, only for a short period”. From the above analysis, we concluded that there are potential users of our existing programs who would be better off with distance learning. This is important and potentially valuable for our institution, given that it could mean we are able to expand our potential market in terms of location.
We saw this as an opportunity and decided to integrate our existing programs with online teaching.
In addition, we applied for the project in the published tender CEI with the aim of procuring equipment for lecturers and students who do not have the necessary equipment.
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