COVID-19 and virtual training: how to adopt digital skills in a matter of days


If they told us just six months ago that a pandemic was going to arrive that was going to force, without any excuse or anesthesia, that teachers go digital, we would not have believed it.

When we said that “the university teacher is obliged to change to a techno-digital profile in which he integrates his competences with the digital ones” we did not think, even remotely, that it would happen overnight, in a context of health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it has happened worldwide. Last March the circumstances forced to close the classrooms and open the digital; to transform ourselves into a “save yourself who can” for which society was not prepared, the vast majority, and much less teachers, students or families.

We said that “digital skills will be essential for future teaching because our young people are already digital” and we find ourselves in this situation in which minors were not as adapted to change from one day to the next as we thought; because using social networks for leisure is not the same as working digitally. Let’s see what circumstances have failed and what solutions and benefits this situation is bringing us.

Technology situation at home

The level of stress and concern for the socio-sanitary and economic situation experienced by households is not the best scenario to suddenly implement regulated online teaching. Teleworking is not the same as teleworking all at home with the children tele-studying at the same time.

How many computers, tablets or phones does each family have? At least they should have one for each family member to work at the same time, and also, not all households have an Internet connection that supports data consumption by everyone at the same time. There are governments, such as the Generalitat Valenciana, that analyze which students do not have a device to connect to the Internet and are lending tablets to the neediest families so that their minors can continue with their studies.

At the time of online teaching, in which a teacher gives the lesson via streaming while students follow him in real time, many of the connections fail and do not allow everyone to be on the same connections, because if the network fails, they can follow the explanation like the rest of the classmates. For this a solution is to record the sessions, so that they can be downloaded and viewed later.

Consider countries that do not have a good Internet connection or families that do not have an electronic device. And the problem is not just hardware or connection; many families need technical support in order to understand what tasks or duties their children have to carry out, they do not know how to use the software because they do not know a minimum of the tools that connect them with the teachers or with the virtual classroom.

And if this were not enough, compliance with regulations regarding privacy and data protection issues do not facilitate this task, since they restrict the tools designated for online training . Many teachers have decided to make an exception and open WhatsApp groups with parents, or Telegram with students. It is not the same for students who already have their mobile phones as minors who do not have one and everything happens through their parents. Each level has had to figure out how to stay in touch with the families. And remember that there are parents who at the same time have to telework.

Online training platforms

Depending on each entity, some platforms or others are being used. Some were already established and teachers, families and students knew them; but most had not used this more than to consult a link or explanation at a specific time. It is not the same to enter the teacher’s blog for something specific than to go to a virtual space where all the subjects, calendars, forums, chats and work repositories are.

And we weren’t ready for an avalanche of simultaneous connections, all the teachers and students entering the same platform at the same time; the technological resources were not dimensioned. It has been necessary to adjust to the needs, leaving a week or two of uncertainty, poor connection and stress for the entire educational community, which not only was not ready to train online , but when the system tried it, it did not work as well as it should work.

Initially, when the platforms were not working due to overload, teachers investigated and improvised with other channels. There have been teachers who have used email, WhatsApp groups, blogs or each one as they have best understood.

The problem has been the lack of coordination and the lack of a single communication system, where the students did not know if they had to deliver the task by mail, by the platform when it worked, by WhatsApp with a photo or to wait for a specific date that they had been given. given the teachers. This has demonstrated the usefulness of online platforms , the need to have a safe workspace where students can find their learning environment, their peers and their teachers in a unified way.

Teaching organization, learning monitoring and evaluation

Another milestone is being the teaching organization. Many of the complaints from the students and families have been that there were too many tasks, that the teachers had dedicated themselves to sending many readings, videos, individual exercises or group work, much more than they would have done in the classroom. And, worst of all, without an organization or planning to balance the workload.

The follow-up of the learning has been interpreted as the fact that what has been requested must be delivered in due time and form, if they are present in the virtual classes, if they have read and solved the questions in the pdf or the book or if they take the exam on time in which they have been summoned without copying.

Now, once it has been seen that it will not be a matter of two weeks, but that this will last longer, it seems that everything is beginning to be organized, that a certain order is assumed in the planning of the work of the students.

In each subject there should be a plan that is known a priori to carry out your distance learning process, knowing in advance the resources that you should read, see or consult and when you should do it; You also need to know how many and what activities you have to do, and by when, as well as the evaluation method and how the teacher will correct it and when, and if you have the option to send it again improved or corrected.

Actions are proposed to help ensure consistency in student training and assessment activities. For this, it is proposed that teachers coordinate and tune criteria, resources, evaluation, as well as workload.

One of the problems students are having is the large amount of information in all the material provided. And yes, if there is little they complain, but if there is too much. What is advised is to make a selection of what is essential, and differentiate it from what is accessory and to expand information. Thus. each student can choose how much they want to go deeper.

It is also important to reach consensus for tutoring, either group or individualized, that in some way guarantees the monitoring of the students: each according to their needs.

Moments of change that drive creativity

Many teachers still do not know how to evaluate without taking a face-to-face exam, or how to do the practicals. They still believe that it will be impossible, but all they have to do is look at universities that have been teaching online or online for years .

Yes, you can, but it takes a while to adapt, and perhaps the most important thing is not to try to do exactly what you were doing, but to adapt to the circumstances. Creativity out of necessity is one of the positive teachings of this crisis.

We said in that article six months ago, referring to young people, that “skills, change, creativity and innovation are going to be fixed elements in their future, they must work from childhood and, of course, throughout his academic life ”. Well, with this brutal digital transformation, the picaresque of the students has become more acute, they are learning at full speed to copy much better than they already did, to work collaboratively and remotely as a team, to search the Internet how to do the jobs or, better yet, to find out if the job is done.

Change has opened minds. The need stimulates creativity, we are adopting many digital skills in a matter of days.

The most creative formulas are appearing to evaluate students taking into account that now they can copy and that they have at their disposal many more resources, that they can count on their mother or grandfather to get the best grade on the exam. Isn’t it a precious moment for the wit of each other?

The new digital teacher

The teacher’s work must be that of a mentor, a guide to research and decide the necessary elements, accompanying the students in their interest and delving individually according to their needs, helping to generate criteria. A more active than passive task, also digitally.

There are teachers who work much more with online training , because they have to adapt their content and their way of teaching to a new model; But there are also some who do not plan to change much, because this is going to be something provisional, and they do not realize the great opportunity of adaptation that this situation offers us.

As we said in the previous article: “When the online and the physical merge in the learning environment, when the teacher achieves the balance between his classroom self and his digital self, when it becomes accessible to students, creating the ideal space for teaching regardless of whether the space is physical or virtual, is when we can say that the teacher has mutated digitally ”.

What we did not think is that we would have to mutate in a matter of weeks.

Author Bio: Marga Cabrera is Full professor at the Polytechnic University of Valencia at the Polytechnic University of Valencia