Distance learning: taking stock
Institutional Communication Service
19 February 2021
As the spring semester begins at USI, we would like to take stock of the situation regarding distance learning. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has imposed increased social distance and generalised closures, has pushed the world of education, university and beyond, to confront, among other things, the various modalities of distance education. Several and diverse opinions have been voiced on this subject over this period, highlighting its advantages and disadvantages. Here is a summary.
Covid and universities, between online lessons and criticality
The coronavirus has affected and is still affecting all areas of our lives significantly. It is enough to think that words like social distance, quarantine, isolation, and increased hygienic measures have become an integral part of our daily life in a year.
The pandemic consequences have not spared the world of education, which had to boost its transition towards the digitalisation to meet the needs imposed by the virus. The suspension of lectures in presence, study groups and seminars has wiped out all in-person contacts, both with professors and among students, and slowed down or suspended, in some cases, the study paths. The lack of human relations and comparison has also led to an increase in inequalities between students, bringing to light several critical aspects of distance learning. Starting from these considerations, the radio broadcast Modem, aired on 1 February 2021 on Rete Uno, gave voice to the testimonies of young university students accompanied by the comments and reflections of Lorenzo Cantoni, Pro-rector for Education and Students' experience, Angela Andolfo Filippini, psychologist and psychotherapist and Francesco Bee, co-president of the Swiss Student Union.
Distance exams, where do we stand?
The pandemic has clearly shown the essential role of digital technologies, which have made possible online teaching and distance examinations. At USI, the winter exam session, which has just ended, took place without any significant problems and showed how the important organisational effort made it possible for the exam platforms to run and for students to be treated equally.
The winter exam session of 2021 is over. New things have been learned, and the desire to return on-campus is strong
Professor Lorenzo Cantoni, Pro-Rector for Education and Students' experience at USI, also spoke about the winter exam session, the third held online. In an interview with the student newspaper L'Universo, he described this online mode as a real challenge for students, professors, and the university community. "The professors had to redesign the exams according to new modalities, more suitable for online testing", recalled Professor Cantoni, "while the students had to deal with a greater sense of loneliness and the fear that something could "go wrong", taking the exam from home" without forgetting, he adds, "the staff of the services, in particular of the eLab, IT Services and of the Dean's offices, who assisted in the definition of the exams and their technical implementation".
Distance teaching, between lights and shadows
Distance teaching was also the focus of one Tavolo del confronto (TaCo). On Tuesday, 26 January 2021, a debate was held in live streaming to take stock of the situation and highlight the positive aspects, the critical issues, and teachers and students' reactions towards online teaching. The event featured Lorenzo Cantoni, Pro-Rector for Education and Students' experience at USI; Antonio Carzaniga, Dean of USI Faculty of Informatics; Alberto Piatti, Director of SUPSI Department of Education and Learning; and Stefano Tardini, Executive Director of USI eLearning Lab.
How do USI students experience online lectures?
Online teaching was also the subject of the show SPAM by RSI on Instagram, which interviewed some USI students who have been struggling with distance learning for months. Between those in favour and those against, lessons to catch up on and advice, different slices of daily life spent in front of a screen emerge.
Third semester in a pandemic: staring into the future
The new semester is just around the corner; it will be the third to take place in a pandemic environment. To discuss, gather questions, comments and suggestions on its unfolding, the appointment to the first Townhall meeting in USI history is on Wednesday, 24 February 2021, from 6:30 pm to 8 pm.