Photo: Chris Montgomery / Unsplash
Anna Torres Garrote
Over a period of two months, the University's faculty held 24 online webinars to help the teaching community end the school year online
COVID-19 forced educational centres around the world to close halfway through the year, yet academic activities had to go on. Teachers from every continent were obliged to forge ahead with their teaching remotely, despite having neither the tools nor the knowledge to do so in most cases. Faced with this exceptional situation, the UOC decided to lend a helping hand by sharing its teaching staff's knowledge and its 25 years' experience in e-learning. And so, in April, the "Emergency remote teaching" programme was born, targeting Spanish-speaking teachers trying to adapt to online teaching. The initiative was welcomed with open arms: about 10,000 people from 47 countries signed up for the programme.
Pastora Martínez Samper, the UOC's vice president for Globalization and Cooperation, said: "Any change in teaching methodology requires planning and time. And both have been in very short supply during the COVID-19 crisis. Teaching staff and students from around the world have had to adapt to remote teaching as best they could, as events unfolded." Amidst this emergency situation, "those of us who have the necessary teaching, technological and organizational knowledge to provide quality online education are duty bound to share it with our colleagues," she added. This is the knowledge that a university like the UOC has. Born on the internet 25 years ago, the University today is "an open knowledge hub" according to Martínez Samper.
To fill the knowledge gap, on 6 April, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of unanimous approval of the law that recognized the UOC, the University launched its "Emergency remote teaching" programme, a series of training webinars, available free of charge to university, secondary education and vocational training teachers. According to Carles Sigalés, the UOC's vice president for Teaching and Learning, the initiative sought to "facilitate the transition from face-to-face to remote teaching for Spanish-speaking teachers participating in the training series, regardless of the educational system existing in their country, in the shortest possible time, quickly and interactively".
On this subject, the UOC's president, Josep A. Planell, said that "we share our know-how in e-learning because it is part of our undertaking and because this crisis demands that we share our knowledge to support and advise those who need it".
This programme is the outcome of the initiatives launched by the UOC since 2016 within the framework of its University Development Cooperation, now completed with what Martínez Samper described as "the University's first emergency aid initiative".
The figures provide ample proof of just how successful the initiative has been: more than 34,000 viewers from more than 70 countries followed the lectures live and about 10,000 signed up for the series' webinars. Half of the participants came from Spain, followed by countries on the other side of the Atlantic, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. Moreover, 40% were university teachers and 20% worked in secondary education.
The participants rated the cycle very positively, highlighting the support provided by the UOC, the possibility of interacting with the University's faculty members and the proposal's quality and generosity. In addition, about 90% of the participants thought that the webinars' subject matter was relevant and 33% took part in more than one webinar.
The two webinars with most registered participants were "Designing online courses", given by the director of the University Master's Degree in Education and ICT (E-learning), Lourdes Guardia, and "Keys for simple, effective online assessment", given by the director of the University Master's Degree in Quality Management and Evaluation in Higher Education, Nati Cabrera, and Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences professor, Maite Fernández. In total, the series consisted of 24 webinars and two MOOCs.
More than 80 members of the UOC's staff took part in the initiative, with the complicity, commitment and hard work of all of the UOC's faculties and 13 management departments.
Over a period of two months, academic staff from all of the UOC's faculties offered a total of 24 one-hour webinars, which participants could follow live three times a week.
The UOC's "Emergency remote teaching" programme is one of several initiatives that have emerged since the pandemic began. One example is the Conectad@s: la universidad en casa portal, promoted by the Ministry of Universities, coordinated by CRUE, designed by the UNED and the UOC, and maintained with contributions from the other Spanish universities.