Educational opportunities and challenges in times of crisis

10 Nov 2020 15:10h - 16:40h

Event report

Mr Thiago Moraes (Coordinator, Laboratory of Public Policy and Internet, Brazil) began moderating the session by raising three questions: ‘What impact will the COVID-19 crisis have on education?’, ‘Has digital transformation in the educational sector worsened the inequality and polarisation in our societies?’, and ‘Which digital strategies and policies should be implemented to mitigate these negative impacts?’

Mr Alfredo Calderon (Co-founder, Virtual School of Internet Governance (VSIG); Member,  Internet Society (ISOC) Puerto Rico) elaborated on the challenging situation of schools in Puerto Rico before COVID-19 due to the earthquake. The COVID-19 lockdown revealed the shortage of adequate equipment for e-learning. To deal with the issue, the education department created different learning tracks: 9-12 grades were taught via TV, and were offered LMS courses, while K-8 grades were taught by teachers via videoconferencing. In addition, the government offered USD$400 subsidies for teachers and students to have unlimited Internet access. Calderon concluded by highlighting other challenges, such as the need to adjust the teaching method to a student’s age, the lack of digital literacy skills, and the lack of a parental support system to help students.Ms Gloria Alaneme (Lecturer and Online Facilitator, Department of Accounting and Business Administration, Distance Learning Institute, University of Lagos) explained the challenges created by online learning in Nigeria, such as the lack of Internet access, the lack of devices, and the high prices of data. She also referred to other obstacles, such as the lack of training for teachers, the lack of autonomy for educational institutions, and the inability of the government to provide information and communications technology (ICT) devices. Prior to COVID-19, 13.2 million kids were out of school, and the pandemic only worsened the situation in which only wealthy people can provide education for their children. She concluded by stressing the need to change the perspectives of students and teachers by offering training and guidance, providing data for free, by using educational gadgets based on solar energy, and by taking into consideration cybersecurity issues.

Ms Sona Baghiyan (Safer Internet Armenia) presented the results of a digital education survey conducted by Safer Internet Armenia. The survey aimed to learn how to increase students’ motivation and how to monitor their online learning. The survey included 1000 respondents, ages 6–7. According to the survey, students faced challenges such as the lack of access to technologies, the lack of connectivity, and the lack of a parental support system. Students reported that online learning is exhausting, and that they are having problems to concentrate during class. Overall, from the student perspective, online learning was a good experience. Baghiyan addressed other challenges that need to be addressed, such as the students’ inability to deal with information overload, the need to develop students’ critical literacy skills, and making sure that online learning is effective.  

Mr Tel Amiel (Professor, Department of Methods and Techniques, Faculty of Education, University of Brasília) emphasised how the pandemic has led people all over the world to use technologies provided by GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) for educational purposes, without taking into consideration issues such as privacy, data collection, and the long-term influence of platform loyalty. For example, while Microsoft 365 provides easy and free solutions, it simultaneously enables Microsoft to gather information about teachers, students, and the entire educational system for its future financial benefits. Amiel presented the Brazilian civil initiative Educacao Vigiada which maps the extent to which public and governmental institutions use products created by GAFAM. He also elaborated on the technological and educational solutions which can be used to combat this situation, such as taking the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) courses on open education,  andusing platforms based on open-source technologies.

Mr Glenn McKnight (Foundation for Building Sustainable Community) presented the case study of the Virtual School of Internet Governance (VSIG) which is a virtual school on Internet governance. VSIG offers an opportunity for adults to attend school on Internet governance, and the pandemic outbreak only helped the founders establish the school. Currently there are 4 groups of 100 students, and there is already a waiting list for future groups. McKnight emphasised that this school by no means aims to replace other schools for Internet governance, and solely aims to help those who wish to learn about the topic but cannot do so due to various obstacles, especially during the pandemic.