Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences has accepted the digital challenge
It will soon be a month since the transition from contact learning to distance learning. It has been a digital craze! Like all schools, EUAS (Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences) has tested several different digital tools and learning environments to find the best solution.
It is clear that no one offers a one-size-fits-all solution today. And that's okay because the needs are different, users are varied, and so are their skills. Organizing distance learning has required a lot of work, cleverness and raising one's digital competence, especially from lecturers. The simultaneous use of several distance learning platforms and environments by lecturers has also confused our students. Students, figuratively speaking, have to be in Mustamäe for one lecture and Viimsi for the next one. And let's not forget that usually when you are in a hurry, there's traffic, road repair etc. That's why it's sometimes crucial to try another road. Today, those who can build their e-learning environments and develop them to suit the situation and the needs of students and teachers benefit are the clear winners.
According to visiting lecturers (who give lectures at several Estonian higher education institutions) and external evaluation experts, our study information system (Intranet) is one of the best. This is both in terms of functionality and user-friendliness. Together with the e-learning platform Moodle, these two form a winning team for both students and lecturers. In the last few weeks, we have developed Intranet and our cloud servers so that all studies can be organized using our own resources.
The e-learning platform Moodle continues to be one of our most prominent supporter of distance learning. With the help of EUAS Centre of Excellence in Learning and Teaching, our lecturers can build a perfect e-course in Moodle - study materials, group work, forums, tests, assignments, feedback, etc.
For video lectures, a virtual classroom EEK Meet has newly been developed. EEK Meet allows the lecturer to conduct the lecture in any location, assuming there's a webcam, a computer with a microphone and of course, an Internet connection. A door to the virtual classroom will open in the students' lecture plan. Meaning, the student's do not need to download additional software or going through the hassle of learning to use another new environment. The lecturer can share his or her screen; the participants can also chat with each other. Besides, EEK Meet can be used to organize meetings with colleagues, and for having daily online lunch breaks together.
For fail sharing, we use private cloud environment ownCloud or as we like to call it - EEK Cloud. Our cloud doesn't have a storage limit, because all the data is located in our own servers and connected to EUAS user accounts. In addition to file sharing, EEK Cloud also includes a shared calendar service. The personal EUAS calendar is automatically synced with the lecture plan, for both lecturers and students.
Almost all of our classrooms are equipped with a modern live broadcast system. This means, if the lecturer doesn't want to do a video lecture from their home office, it is always possible to come to the schoolhouse and conduct a lecture in the classroom using the EEK Live environment. The EEK live environment is synced with the lecture plan and enables automatic live broadcasting (and recording) of lectures from the classrooms in Tallinn and Tartu study centres. Using EEK Live is simple – the lecturer can turn on the broadcast and recording form his/her Intranet desktop.
The unexpected transition to distance learning has forced higher education institutions today to pay more attention to increasing their digital capabilities. Even before the global coronavirus crisis, there were universities in the world where, among other things, it is possible to obtain a master's degree remotely. Today, no one dares to predict where and in what direction the Estonian education system will move in the light of the situation that has arisen. But it is clear that our approach to learning and teaching has already changed.