It could be said that, in temporal terms, the outbreak and evolution of the pandemic has meant that, in just two years, education on-line has evolved the same as it would otherwise have taken 10. The advantages of the model are clear: greater flexibility to study (both in terms of time and place); a learning pace that adapts to the circumstances of each student and costs that, in general, are below traditional face-to-face degrees. The disadvantages, a higher risk of dropping out, less interaction with teachers and students and a certain degree of distrust that still persists about the quality of teaching in a hybrid or digital environment, an extreme that the experts flatly reject.
“Quality does not depend on the methodology, technology or price, but essentially on the institutions and, above all, on the people behind them. thanks to training on-line, both the teacher and the student can be anywhere in the world, so having the best specialist on the planet teaching a subject is already possible”, says Joan Ramón Castelló, co-founder of Emagister. “We have the most obvious example in MOOCs, virtual courses taught by the best universities in the world for free. With them we can take courses from, among others, Harvard, Yale or MIT”, he adds. EL PAÍS reviews with Castelló the state of the training on-line, what are its challenges and the best tips to get the most out of it.
Ask. What would you say are the biggest challenges facing education on-line?
Response. I would mention four. To begin with, the confidence of the students. Although today it is a more generational than real issue, there are still reluctance when choosing a course on-line when compared to other face-to-face. Then there is the training of teachers: in the training on-line teachers no longer only have to be experts in the subject they teach, but they also have to master the technology to get the most out of it and not lose the attention of the students.
The other two have to do with the dropout rate, which, although it is not comparable to that of four or five years ago, is still a very important challenge; and the lack of community. Although there are tools for communication, in most virtual training the degree of complicity between the students that exists in face-to-face training is not achieved and they cause the training to be more solitary.
P. What specialties have better employability?
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
R. At the moment, the courses with the greatest employability are VT, and among them, those of administrative management and finance, application development, computer network systems and health (for example, the Higher Degree in Nursing Assistant and the Higher Technician from laboratory). In university degrees, ADE (Business Administration and Management), Computer Engineering and Industrial Engineering have led the demand for several years; Nursing and Medicine also maintain a high volume of demand, and the demand for graduates in mathematics and technical degrees for jobs related to advanced information processing or the development of artificial intelligence systems continues to grow. The health sector doubled its demand in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, due to the need for professionals, but also because of the collective feeling of gratitude that was generated.
As for master’s degrees, the greatest demand at Emagister is concentrated in MBAs (with a certain boom in CEO, less academic and more focused on the resolution and development of cases than the classic ones), in addition to the master’s degrees in Engineering, Development of software Y Big Data. On the other hand, there are the official master’s degrees that enable access to professions such as nursing, teaching or law, as well as those related to commercial areas.
P. How can you avoid the risk of abandonment to which a student is often exposed? on-line?
R. The first thing is to choose the formation well. Although it may seem silly, a significant percentage of dropouts in training on-line They are caused by an incorrect choice of course. Knowing in advance the points of the agenda, the prerequisites, the technology that will be used, the duration and the evaluation methodology is of vital importance so as not to end up disappointed and unmotivated. Career opportunities and the experiences and opinions of former students can also be important factors.
The second thing is to be realistic with the time available. Once the training has been selected and before registering, we must analyze whether or not we have enough time to follow the course and what sacrifices we will have to make on a professional (and above all personal) level. In this last aspect, it is vital that the family is an accomplice and that we agree from the outset how much time we are going to stop dedicating to them and for what period. And, of course, it is important to be rigorous; keep homework and lessons up to date so that we don’t accumulate work and be able to keep up with the rhythm of classes.
Ask. Not staying with doubts, no matter how basic they may seem, will help us assimilate all the subjects well. In this aspect, it is very important to have continuous communication with teachers and make the most of tutorials if they exist.
Let technology not be a brake. Devoting the necessary time to getting to know virtual platforms well will make us feel comfortable and calm, and we will avoid frustrations that will distract us from the objective set. Obviously a fast connection without cuts will be key to dedicate all our effort to what is really important.
Interact. In those formations in which we can communicate with our colleagues, we should not miss the opportunity to share our experiences with them. It will help us not to feel alone and to create a team.
P. What factors should be taken into account to choose a good educational center on-line?
R. In general, the factors are the same as in face-to-face training because, although in the pre-pandemic years there was a clear differentiation between specialized centers and those that were not, today the difference is minimal. In general, apart from knowing the syllabus, duration and characteristics of the course, it is essential to consult the opinion of former students of the same formation or, if it is a new one, of those who have carried out similar programs in the same center.
The role of innovation and new technologies is essential for the development of education on-line. There must be few people who, during the pandemic, have not used a tool to communicate with family or friends. These same tools are the ones that have helped break some of the myths of training on-line, since they have allowed us to see that efficient communication between teachers and students is not only possible, but is also already taking place in personal life.
P. What are the best techniques, resources and methodologies to find today in a virtual or hybrid environment?
R. Although the most relevant factor in terms of quality continues to be that of the institutions and the teaching staff, it is very important that the course is not a simple digitization of content offline. Also that the platforms that are used for learning allow an agile communication between teacher and student and, above all, a correct learning and assimilation of the subject.
A recent trend that is working better and better is to schedule synchronous classes, where teachers and students connect at the same time and discuss a specific case. Students have to prepare their presentation on the topic and share opinions with the rest of the class.
P. How is the relationship with teachers in education usually? on-line?
R. The quality and intensity of the student-teacher relationship depends largely on each university, faculty or center. Although the universities that have been specialists for many years in non-face-to-face modalities (UOC, UNIR, etc.) have developed much more communication and relationship techniques on-line (synchronous or asynchronous) with their students, most schools have had to adapt very quickly during the pandemic. Usually, the teaching staff of virtual training is closer to the labor market, more varied and, in some cases, of multiple nationalities.
There are formations on-line conceived specifically for this methodology in which the relationship between the teacher and the student is much greater than that experienced in the classical university. However, synchronous communication tends to be less, a factor that can reduce motivation and understanding of teaching. The autonomy of the students is much greater in the training on-line, which should reinforce the value of non-attendance degrees; but it is also true that it can affect the commitment and the degree of abandonment of those enrolled. It depends a lot on each program and even on each teacher.
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