CORONAVIRUS AND ELEARNING PLATFORMS FOR SCHOOLS

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In recent times there has been much discussion about the possibility of using elearning platforms for schools. In fact, the temporary closure of schools due to the current health crisis that the world, and in particular Italy, is experiencing due to the coronavirus (COVID19), leads teaching to move towards online direction.

The elearning platforms are preparing to accommodate the lessons of millions of Italians of all ages, with all the multimedia content useful for virtual lessons that directly involve the technological training of teachers and professors, at all levels and types of training. Let’s see together how elearning platforms work and what are their advantages for schools.

ELEARNING AND NEW TECHNOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR SCHOOLS

As a consequence of the coronavirus emergency, the world of elearning is having a new opportunity to innovate the world of traditional education and teaching, bringing learning directly to students’ homes and to digital devices of learners.

The closure of the schools in Italy by the Ministry of Education (by the decree of 4th March) has involved almost 4 million students, and it forced schools and training bodies to resort to elearning to shorten the physical distance with pupils and to avoid interrupting learning paths and its complicated consequences.

Distance learning, the new platform of Italian Ministry of Education

One of the first measures was strongly desired by the Minister Lucia Azzolina and concerns the launch of a web app for distance learning, available in the section of the website www.miur.it dedicated to coronavirus.

In a first part, called “phase one”, technologies, platforms and multimedia contents useful for online lessons are shared. While “phase two” is dedicated on the technological training for Italian teachers.

In fact, according to the latest Digitalization of Economy and Society (Desi) index issued by European Commission, Italy is in 24th place, in which only 20% of the teaching staff attended a digital training course. Even 24% of schools do not yet have specific programming on the topic.

Free platforms for distance learning (phase 1)

Since the beginning of the state of emergency, Italian schools have started to experience how online teaching could be the valid answer to the problem of isolating all school communities.

In the section dedicated to phase 1 of the MIUR website, tools are offered by public and private partners who collaborate with the Ministry through online protocols, i.e. free exchange agreements. In essence, the Ministry certifies the validity of the instrument in question and companies make it available free of charge in emergencies such as this.

First of all, the links to the most popular distance learning platforms, such as Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google Classroom. Other elearning platforms will be added to these, thanks to the two calls made by the Ministry for hardware (keys, PCs, tablets) and software. There are minimum standards to be respected, from Agid (Agency for Digital Italy) certifications related to the GDPR to the free service.

For a direct connection with the most advanced schools, the Network of a thousand educational avant-garde has been made available, for twinning with schools that have fallen behind in the use of digital technologies. There are also webinars that explain how to use the platforms for distance learning.

In addition, multimedia contents are available that can be used immediately, such as the libraries made available by Rai and Treccani, useful for teachers who want to use them during their lessons.

The use of all these platforms and digital solutions is not mandatory, but individual schools will decide whether to use them for learning.

Future innovation in schools (phase 2)

Phase 2, on the other hand, will aim to relaunch didactic innovation and training, spreading the distance learning of schools, through twinning and through the already existing community of teachers. The hope is that all schools will show willingness and interest in taking these new digitisation paths.

MEASURES AND FUNDS FOR ELEARNING IN SCHOOLS

The aim of the recent measures is to help companies and families with funds to equip themselves with software and hardware necessary for distance learning. Here are the allowed measures:

THE PROBLEMS IN THE DIGITISATION OF ITALIAN SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES

According to some research conducted by Docety and Fileta, there are concrete problems in the way in which Italian schools and universities perceive the use of digital devices for learning.

In this particular period, in which the habits of Italians are changing, a general scepticism emerged towards the world of elearning in Italy, especially in relation to the application of digital methods for learning at all school levels. However, it bodes well that teenagers are optimists about the use of elearning platforms.

What is hindering the digitalisation in Italy?

During the research, 41% of the interviewees replied that the real obstacle to digitisation in Italy are both, the poor computer literacy and habits still too deep-rooted to physical proximity. Think of practical examples, such as the delay in the use of e-commerce in Italy compared to other countries and the technologies still used by a fairly low percentage of Italians. This is probably caused also by too weak a political will. 3.91% of those who took part in the survey are even against elearning, while 100% of those who have obtained a doctorate said they were in favour.

Smart working and home-office are essential today, but if learning moves away from digital technologies, it becomes increasingly difficult for Italian population have the chance to change habits and digitalise its processes like other countries.

This probably derives from a misunderstanding of the term digitalisation, which does not mean “knowing how to use a computer”, but also being able to reach those people who cannot move and expand the country’s growth prospects, with consequent advantages and more efficient services.

Digital continually creates countless opportunities for minds open up to development and changes. A country full of possibilities like Italy should greet new tools useful for learning and spreading training and culture with open arms without hesitation, starting from the school education of schools and universities

Twinning between companies and institutes for elearning

With the health emergency underway and the suspension of lessons, individual schools are taking advantage of the elearning platforms made available by the Italian Ministry of Education, facing a cultural and technological challenge. On the one hand, the efforts of the teachers dealing with virtual teaching and, on the other hand, the available technologies that sometimes are not efficient enough, especially in “remote” mode.

In this context, several Italian companies have decided to promote an important twinning with the schools, through the “Adopt a school” initiative, to help schools equip themselves with all the tools to effectively develop the innovative teaching model promoted by elearning.

The first results of distance learning in schools

The first feedback obtained from the adoption of elearning platforms in schools is positive and distance learning seems to work well. A health emergency like this of the coronavirus was needed to bring schools to use information and digital technologies in such a complete and well-rounded way.

The National Presidia Association took the first steps, by providing information, examples and support to schools that have activated distance learning, including a national task force. The most experienced schools in DL (distance learning) give advice to less experienced ones.

Now, let’s just hope that this emergency situation, which is cornering the world of education with the use of elearning solutions, leads to a positive change of mentality that promotes digital innovation also in sectors such as school.

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