Albert Sangrà, member of Edul@ab research team, on DigitelPro project: "Teachers have realized that perhaps they did not have the training they needed in both digital competencies and in online training design" (Photo: Julia m Cameron, Pexels)
The goal of DigiTelPro is to design and implement a continuing education programme on hybrid and online teaching and learning
The COVID-19 crisis has forced universities to make the transition to digital education and reorganize their campuses. According to data complied by the European Commission in May 2020, 95.1% of European universities organized online and distance training, and 82.7% even organized online examinations. In many cases, they continued with the virtual format throughout the entire pandemic, but the limitations involved in this remote teaching used in an emergency situation have become increasingly apparent, as it has become clear that formats such as watching a video or following a lesson via a video conference are no longer considered an effective solution. These shortcomings have led to the creation of DigiTelPro, an Erasmus+ project aimed at providing high quality, inclusive and scalable digital education, based on designing a programme for professional development and continuing education for educators.
"Teachers have realized that perhaps they did not have the training they needed in both digital competencies and in online training design, and they feel that they are suffering from an extreme overload of work in order to adapt to the situation. Meanwhile, many students have begun to complain and demand their right to have a quality education, whether it is face-to-face or online," says Albert Sangrà, a member of teaching staff in the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at the UOC and a member of the Edul@b group, who with his fellow faculty and group members Juliana Raffaghelli and Montse Guitert are part of the team working on the project.
With a duration of 24 months and a budget of around 300,000 Euros, DigiTelPro is led by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) and in addition to the UOC, the participants are Dublin City University, in Ireland; KU Leuven, in Belgium; Uninettuno, in Italy; TU Delft and Open Universiteit, which are both in the Netherlands, and the Fédération Interuniversitaire de l'Enseignement à Distance (FIED) in France. According to the Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation Pastora Martínez, "this cooperation with European universities, which teach in online, distance and traditional formats, but which are renowned for their research and innovation in digital education, enables the UOC to continue working to improve the quality of online education, and by doing so help shape the future of higher education in Europe." The project is also linked to the working plan of the UOC UNESCO Chair in Education and Technology for Social Change for the next two years.
A programme with three open and free online courses
DigiTelPro has brought together an excellent group of university experts who have developed good practices in digital solutions in each of their fields during the COVID-19 crisis. The project will therefore provide a platform for researchers and innovators to exchange experiences about synchronous hybrid, combined hybrid and online training, which will be used to create professional development programmes.
The aim is to provide a response to many of the most common requests received from teaching staff during the pandemic, which according to Albert Sangrà, range from "what can be done asynchronously and synchronously, how interaction and collaboration in virtual contexts should be evaluated and increased, and which types of activities could replace traditional lessons."
A programme with three open and free continuing education courses will be designed and implemented in order to achieve this. It will enable teaching staff at the universities and all those involved in curriculum design and teaching support at European universities to adapt to hybrid and online learning.
The courses will have a modular structure, and will be designed around the needs of the participating universities. However, they will have common foundations based on consistent educational concepts with relevant learning objectives. "The first courses will be online, and the idea is for the people who take the courses to then include them in the teacher training at their own universities. A series of guides and recommendations will also be produced, so that they can be applied in other contexts," says the researcher.
Applying the UOC model to the online and distance learning module
The UOC is leading the development of the course on online and distance learning, which will be carried out with the Open Universiteit and the Uninettuno. "These universities do not have exactly the same model as we do, so it will involve an ongoing negotiation and agreement to optimize models and provide guidelines and teaching strategies that create an education of sufficient quality," explains the researcher.
This design will involve implementing characteristics that are an "essential" part of the UOC model, which have been included over 25 years of experience in innovative online learning methodologies, and provide the cornerstone for any model of quality online education: "The role of teaching staff in terms of support, interaction with and between students, the use of quality learning resources and the collaborative construction of knowledge are aspects that must be included in the design to varying degrees. And of course, the major contribution that the UOC has always made to the development of asynchronous learning," says Albert Sangrà.
Another challenge involved in creating will be to make it useful for both people who may already have more extensive knowledge of online education, and for those who were only able to react to the pandemic to a limited extent, and who are starting from a less consolidated position.
Listening to the students' voice
An important part of DigiTelPro will involve preparing students to deal with learning with digital media. The Edul@b research group has been working in this area for some years, with many positive results. With a view to this improvement, as well as compiling some of these resources, a module in the programme will be allocated to teaching digital competencies, and students will be encouraged to participate in both the process of designing the course contents and its distribution after it has been completed.
The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health. Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).
The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu. #UOC25years
Albert Sangrà Morer
Full professor of Education
Lecturer in the Psychology and Education Sciences Department
Academic director of the UNESCO Chair
Expert in: E-learning; education and ICT; educational organization; online university teaching; teaching methods; educational policy; strategic ICT planning in education.
Knowledge area: Education.
Pastora Martínez Samper
Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation
Expert in: Management and assessment of research, responsible research and innovation, and open science.
Knowledge area: Political science.