According to UNESCO statistics, by March 26, 2020, more than 1.5 billion school students at all levels worldwide have been affected due to COVID-19 outbreak, accounting for 87% of the world’s total. 165 countries have announced the suspension of all levels of education institutions. In response to the challenges brought by COVID-19, UNESCO established the Global Education Coalition on March 26, which will coordinate the efforts of international organizations, non-governmental groups and individual enterprises. The organization aimed to share and explore innovative and practical solutions to ensure the continuity of students’ learning and the fairness and inclusiveness of education. Chinese Ministry of Education also required that the start of 2020 spring semester in schools has been postponed to ensure the health of teachers and students and the security of the campus. In addition to the comprehensive application of various online learning methods, students of all ages have encountered different problems. All countries worldwide are actively looking for educational measures on how to improve the ability of students' active learning and strengthen the consciousness of learning,
On March 27, 2020, an international webinar entitled “How to Help Children be Active Learners at Home during Educational Disruption” was held at 20:00-22:00 (GMT+8). The webinar was organized by the Smart Learning Institute of Beijing Normal University (SLIBNU), UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE) and UNESCO International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education (INRULED), co-hosted by the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), International Association of Smart Learning Environments (IASLE), and supported by the global online learning community Edmodo, a subsidiary of NetDragon Websoft Holdings Limited (HKSE: 0777). This webinar was the second after the first one entitled “How to Keep Students Learning during Schools Discruption in COVID-19 Situation”. Several scholars, teachers and students from severely-affected countries and areas were invited to share their experiences on how to keep their students active, and explore how to improve their abilities of self-learning plan and self-monitoring.
On behalf of the research project team, Dejian Liu, Co-Dean of SLIBNU and Chairman of NetDragon, and Junfeng Yang, Professor of Hangzhou Normal University shared the Guidance on Active Learning at Home in Educational Disruption
: Chinese experience on promoting student’s self-regulation skills during COVID-19 outbreak
. This handbook was realized by the research team led by Co-Dean Ronghuai Huang and Dejian Liu and discussed three parts, namely “Protecting yourself, and prevent from COVID-19”, “Becoming active learner during educational disruption” and “Keeping healthy at home”. The handbook explained in detail the potential problems during the process of active learning caused by both external and internal factors. With vivid pictures, this handbook presented the practical experience of active learning from students all over the country, and offered specific suggestions with a great variety of cases and relevant theories. Mr. Dejian Liu pointed out that several students, especially senior students who are about to graduate, are worried about the effect of learning at home. It does not only prove that students firmly believe in their schools, but also mean that new issues have arisen that should be considered. In response of the situation, the academic team will complete this handbook on active learning, which is supported by Edmodo, to explore how to help students improve their ability of self-monitoring and self-regulated learning.
Dr. Tao Zhan, Director of UNESCO IITE highly appreciated the high-quality and efficient work of the academic team, as well as the strong leadership, and mentioned the desire of further cooperation between UNESCO IITE and SLIBNU on the series of projects. Mr. Zhan pointed out that the last international webinar showed a diversified world educational picture. The Handbook on Facilitating Flexible Learning During Educational Disruption: The Chinese Experience in Maintaining Undisrupted Learning in COVID-19 Outbreak
released by UNESCO has been shared around the world, and reached over 11000 schools in more than 180 countries. Further efforts should be made to release the handbook in multiple languages, and support teachers and students via webinars, free online courses, as well as the consultation offered by experts. In particular, he mentioned that the educational situation in African countries should not be overlooked. He suggested that a special webinar should be held to explore feasible practices in light of the educational situation in African countries.
Also, the scholars, front-line teachers and students from different countries shared their active learning experience from the perspectives of current situation, measures, initiatives, resources, teaching methods and tools, etc.
Saidou Sireh Jallow, Education Officer of UNESCO Nairobi Office pointed out that online learning played an important part during COVID-19 outbreak. It has brought opportunities to education and ensured learning continuity. Various ICT infrastructures and online learning platforms have offered many free open educational resources. However, the evaluation methods of online learning still remain to be improved, which implies desire for more collaboration on the further exploration of ICT in education. Galina Konyaeva, Program Assistant of Teacher Professional Development and Networking Unit, UNESCO IITE shared the situation of education in Russia and relevant response. In Russia, K12 schools, colleges and universities will remain closed from March 23 until April 12. UNESCO has collaborated with various private IT companies, online-learning providers and major universities to construct online teaching platforms, distance learning systems, online courses and feedback systems. She also mentioned that UNESCO was devoted to covering more countries with suitable educational measures and offering more comprehensive digital learning resources.
Joseph South, chief learning officer at ISTE mentioned that nearly all schools in the United States have been closed as well. ISTE has created a website called “Learning Keeps Going” for educators, students and parents to get the help that they need. Meanwhile, ISTE has also hosted weekly webinars to share the latest online learning resources and discuss the issue of active learning. Prof. Harrison Hao Yang from State University of New York at Oswego, U.S. pointed out that American high schools had adopted some online learning platforms to help students watch instructional videos, receive teaching materials and notifications. Prof. Charles Xiaoxue Wang of Educational Technology, Florida Gulf Coast University pointed out that Florida Gulf Coast University had adopted systematic approaches to support students’ active learning. He also mentioned that the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) has hosted a number of webinars to discuss the situation of active learning during COVID-19 outbreak. Amanda Rose, a Dunbar High School Teacher, Fort Myers, Florida, U.S. also introduced the current situation of students’ active learning in Dunbar High School. In addition, Elisabeth Stucklen, Instructional Designer from Online Learning Consortium (OLC) mentioned that all of the New Hampshire (NH) schools have been closed since March 16. They have carried out distance learning and encouraged students to make reasonable daily learning schedule.
Dr. Heng Luo, Associate Professor of Central China Normal University, China mentioned that Wuhan has implemented “one district one policy” and “one school one model” via “Wuhan Edu Cloud” and “Online Classroom for High School”. Wuhan has also utilized all types of live streaming tools, social software, online surveys for instruction, management and evaluation. He shared his experience on the effective arrangement of online teaching. Prof. Carol Chan from the University of Hong Kong stated that online active learning involved setting the goals with a number of elements including planning, monitoring, evaluation and multiple tasks. Through the process of learning, different strategies should be adopted at different stages. Teachers and students can better achieve the goals through collaboration and communication. In addition, the learning environment at home is also of great importance to learners, thus the participation and assistance of parents can promote better self-regulated learning of students.
Prof. Paloma Diaz from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain mentioned that schools at all levels in Madrid have been closed and online teaching has been carried out instead since March 11. However, various problems have emerged, such as difficulty in making decisions on online teaching schemes, insufficient technical devices for some teachers and students, and inconsistent learning progress. In the face of these challenges, teachers should strengthen the interaction with students and prepare for the courses together. She emphasized that transformation from traditional teaching to online teaching was not just about getting access to online resources, but an overall paradigm shift. Therefore, educators need to consider how IT can be better used to increase educational abilities in all aspects.
Prof. Joel Schmidt from University of Applied Management, Germany mentioned that all German schools have been closed so far. He then pointed out that schools in Germany adopted an educational portal “MEBIS”, providing multimedia resources, exam archives, learning platforms, online learning tools, etc. Students were able to conduct active learning with a variety of learning methods and tools, such as systematic courses, teacher-created courses and communication tools such as Zoom, etc.
Dr. Manolis Mavrikis, Associate Professor of University College London, U.K. mentioned that all schools in U.K. would help students with their online active learning via some platforms, such as Zoom. Meanwhile, U.K. has launched a website similar to the U.S. “Learning Keeps Going” website and conducted collaboration with international experts and scholars. Corrina McEwan, Head of Online Learning at Nisai Group mentioned that since the school closure at all levels in the UK, students had received all sorts of support from schools and society. Schools have created a wide range of homework packs for students, including self-assessment, mock exams, exercise books, etc. However, students lack reasonable learning routine, specialist support and guidance, as well as social learning. Thus, Nisai Group is continuing to support online learners by providing national curriculum for online teacher qualification, personalized learning and encouraging autonomy and regulation.
Dr. Maiga Chang, Professor of Athabasca University, Canada shared the goals for students’ active learning from three perspectives, namely gamification, training and reward, and learning analytics. Leanne Ma, a student from University of Toronto, Canada mentioned that although Canadian teachers were not well prepared for online teaching, they still collaborated with experts and scholars worldwide to jointly solve the problems of distance education.
Olivera Pavlovic, a student of University of Novi Sad, Serbia said that professors in Serbia might have different teaching methods for online learning, and different courses of different colleges might adopt different learning methods for students. At present, middle school students across Serbia learn by watching the national broadcast at home, and using different sorts of learning tools to check notifications, receive assignments, etc.
Jennie Magiera, Global Head of Education Impact at Google for Education introduced the distance learning resources, online meeting platform and interactive Docs provided by Google for Education. They have also utilized digital feedback systems to facilitate teaching, and proposed solutions to the problems that may occur in classroom participation, physical and mental health tracking, and course recording and sharing, etc.
Finally, Ronghuai Huang, Co-Dean of SLIBNU, described the overall picture of “Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning” in China with ten key words, namely, flexible teaching, active learning, resources on demand, personalized education, open resources, technology support, government leadership, school organization, home-school interaction and social participation. Under the joint effort of schools, teachers, students and parents, the initiative of “Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning” has been well implemented via online educational platform. At present, abundant online learning resources and diversified technological devices have offered students comprehensive materials and convenient approaches for online learning. However, they have also brought about many problems: in the process of home learning, students tend to have poor self-regulation, or even indulge in the entertainment on their terminal devices, which suggests that their self-monitoring ability should be improved. In view of these problems, Prof. Huang has put forward the following seven suggestions:
1) Scheduling learning and playing in balance. Students should balance the time spent in learning and playing by scheduling their daily routine reasonably.
2) Choosing learning resources on demand. Parents should keep frequent home-school interaction and help students select suitable on-demand learning resources.
3) Inspiring the study from playing. Students should keep close communication with their partners online. Learning tasks and entertainment activities can be carried out in teams.
4) Engaged in learning by self-monitoring. Students should master their own learning process with the help of their families and develop the habit of self-monitoring and self-management.
5）Nourishing learning ability with e-assessment. Students should use suitable digital tools to evaluate and examine themselves on different subjects.
6）Carrying out reflection on learning methods. Students should always reflect on themselves, summarize experience and lessons, and share them timely with their learning partners for mutual progress.
7) Exercising daily and moderately. Students should arrange time for moderate exercise to relieve pressure as well as maintain physical and mental health.
At the end of the webinar, Prof. Huang appreciated the participation of all the international experts and the work of the academic team, and hoped that more countries could share the experience and suggestions to improve students’ active learning.
The Handbook on Facilitating Flexible Learning During Educational Disruption: The Chinese Experience in Maintaining Undisrupted Learning in COVID-19 Outbreak
, completed by the research project team led by Co-Deans Ronghuai Huang and Dejian Liu, was released on official website of UNESCO IITE on March 16, 2020. The handbook has reached 11 thousands schools in over 80 hundred countries.
(For more information, please refer to https://iite.unesco.org/news/handbook-on-facilitating-flexible-learning-during-educational-disruption/
). Since its release, the handbook has been reported by Tencent News, NetEase News, The Paper, sohu.com, ifeng.com, edu.sina.com.cn and other media, giving good guidance to the teaching and research practice of education researchers and practitioners at all levels. SLIBNU is now devoted to launching a series of handbooks on educational response during COVID-19 outbreak, and share them in a series of webinars.