News from SFIVET
COVID-19 impact on SFIVET’s operations
The International Association of Universities (IAU) states that more than 1.5 billion students worldwide are affected by school and university closures due to COVID-19. In this alarming scenario, SFIVET developed short- (such as access to online classes) and long-term solutions (increased blended learning opportunities) to help ensure access to the planned and new courses for its teacher students, as well as to guarantee continuity of work for its employees, thus ensuring that uninterrupted learning and work during the COVID-19 outbreak could happen.
Having a decades-long tradition in ICT pedagogical solutions for its instructors and staff, SFIVET was not found unprepared in responding to this emergency from a technological – but above all pedagogical – standpoint. However, the challenge has been that of proposing effective solutions in the shortest time as possible to conciliate the complex interplay between training, work (all our students are in-service teachers and sometimes still professionals too) and private life during the pandemic.
In this critical process of transition, SFIVET decided to turn all the scheduled courses into online classes – very often recurring to synchronous or asynchronous video technologies –and at the same time to support vocational teachers with several initiatives for them to opportunely face the challenges of distance learning.
Through the Swiss government-funded program called Trans:formation, SFIVET was already supporting the digital transformation of vocational schools via continuing education offers and accompaniment of innovation projects in the field. During the COVID-19 outbreak such opportunities have been extended and improved with open webinars on central topics like how to motivate students in distance learning, how to provide adequate assessment, and how to prepare engaging and interactive content to deliver online; with dedicated and school-tailored courses on how to exploit the instructional values of interactive video and how to design pedagogical scenarios in which the iVideo.education tool could be successfully employed; with a hotline at teachers’ disposal to solve both technical and didactical issues; and with an ad hoc support to assist teachers to implement specific scenarios.
We believe that all these initiatives will contribute to the vocational teachers’ digital competence development and soon we will have a proof for that – in fact, we had just started a project aimed at assessing the current level of digital competence of vocational school teachers, and we suddenly modified it in order to also collect data on how the COVID-19 emergency influenced the process.
As of the end of June, Swiss HEIs can resume face-to-face teaching. Such transition has to happen responsibly, and in facilities that can guarantee physical distance among the attendees. To get ready, SFIVET has invested in classroom infrastructures and video technologies that can accommodate both the learners and their instructors, and ensure that such lectures can be attended both on-site and online with no solution of continuity and the least difference as possible with respect to active participation.
Alessia Evi-Colombo and Alberto Cattaneo
Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET)