The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we approach the teaching and learning experience in our master’s programmes at an unprecedented speed. This new scenario has forced our ability to cope with unknown technologies within a very short time of frame. This has been a challenge in many ways but it has also been a learning opportunity to improve our skills regarding online teaching.
Teaching and learning happen through interaction, and this has been the biggest challenge for our coordination team: create opportunities for students to engage and interact between themselves and with the faculty. In this sense, COVID-19 has strengthened our belief in the importance of human interaction, non-verbal communication and spontaneity in making education a life-changing experience.
Teaching and learning happen through interaction, and this has been the biggest challenge for our coordination team: create opportunities for students to engage and interact between themselves and with the faculty
When we asked students about their experience with the online teaching during the pandemic, interaction and participation was also identified as the biggest loss when comparing it to face-to-face education. In addition, they faced a strong feeling of isolation by being physically separated from their classmates, as well as difficulty keeping their attention in front of the computer for long periods of time.
I have asked Linda Stöger, a student from the Master of Global Health, and Xavier Bartrolí, Coordinator of the Humanitarian Crises and Global Health course, to share their thoughts regarding online teaching and learning:
Given the extraordinary circumstances, the transition to the online teaching format worked remarkably well. The Coordination Team did an amazing job in facilitating the classes. The teachers –some of them engaged in the COVID-19 response– managed to adapt course syllabi quickly.
Although the beginning had its challenges –like getting used to the online platform, studying from home, and away from the familiar faces we had gotten used to seeing every day– the online classes kept us all busy.
Luckily, we humans are highly adaptable beings, and soon it became normal to interact solely via internet and phone. Interaction and class participation during the courses did come with some difficulties. But, with time, classes became more dynamic. Group-exercises in the breakout sessions were a nice change, almost giving the sensation of being in the same room. Kahoot! and Menti proved useful tools for student participation –and keeping us awake during four hours in front of a computer!
The online platform could not fully replace the quality of face-to-face teaching, and the possibility to network was very limited. But, given the extraordinary circumstances, I believe that everyone did an exceptional effort in making it a overall positive experience overall.
Adapting the “Humanitarian Crises and Global Health” module implemented by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to the online format was a challenge, basically for three reasons: the materials had been designed for face-to-face sessions; the time to adapt them was reduced; and the different speakers involved in the module were also participating in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so their availability was very limited.
With more time available, the contents could have been better adapted to a training with a greater asynchronous component. But, since a synchronous format was chosen, the result was optimal due to a combination of factors, among which I would highlight the knowledge of the subject by the speakers, the use of video and practical exercises, and the invitation to participate in all of the sessions.
I have learned two main lessons during this process: the importance of facilitating student participation as much as possible during the sessions; and that the mastery, of the subject but, above all, the passion of the facilitator contribute enormously to seducing the audience and keeping it active and present.