Széchenyi 2020
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Corvinus also relies on student feedback in distance learning

The second distance learning week on Corvinus will end soon. How did the transition go, what are the experiences of the first week? What challenges did the university have to overcome? What else is expected, what are the arrangements for the exam period? These were among the subjects we discussed with Dr. György Lajos Szabó, Deputy Rector of Education of Corvinus University of Budapest.

The methodology of distance learning was presented in our previous series of articles using materials from the Corvinus Centre for Teacher Training and Digital Learning (TDTK). In the first part, we presented support for individual learning, in the second part, the video streaming method, and in the third part, we described e-learning-based education.

Distance learning started on Corvinus recently, the methodology of which has been talked about a lot. What can be expected in the coming weeks, will there be additional methodological materials and developments? Do you already know what will happen to the exam period?

We are in continuous development, modifications and refinements are still expected in the system, e.g., the filming of educational videos related to key subjects is currently in progress. We also need to be prepared for the exam period to remain in distance learning form. The reality of getting back to the classroom exam is getting smaller and smaller, we must plan the transition. We need to increase the capacity of the Moodle system so that a large number of students can take exams simultaneously, which is what IT colleagues are working on. The staff of the Centre for Teacher Training and Digital Learning (TDTK) are developing various examination solutions. We are also preparing to make the final exams possible on the online platform in addition to the exams.

We have already given our international students travelling home a guarantee that they can take online exams and a final exam even if classroom exams will be organised if they cannot return to us. Some students came from the United States, for example. For them, the subjects according to the Hungarian timetable are taught at night or at dawn, which is why we asked the instructors to also record their lectures in such cases. In addition, some teachers offer extra consultations in the evening hours of Hungarian time, so that they could be available to international students at better times.

As for the future, the deadline for submitting dissertations was postponed by two weeks with which we wanted to help the students.

The supply of journals has been good at the university so far, and in the emergency, additional literature sources have become available free of charge. We believe that with the two-week postponement, all the conditions are in place for submitting dissertations. In addition, even paper-based submissions will be abolished, dissertations will only need to be uploaded electronically.

In general, what is the feedback for the first week from the teachers and students, was the transition successful?

 We have very dedicated teachers at the university who love to teach and definitely wanted to successfully complete the semester. This is why they have been very positive about change, even if they have dealt with digital education in different ways and at different levels of development so far.

When my colleagues and I designed the system, we had the question all along: will it work?

I asked the head of the IT Service Centre (ISZK) and the staff of the Centre for Teacher Training and Digital Learning (TDTK) several times if our system would be able to cope with the load, but we could only get a definite answer on the first day.

We were excited and looking forward to Monday morning when the Strategy and Business Planning lecture was delivered. The lecturers who prepared a lot for the lesson, the staff providing methodological and IT support, the deans and the supervisors, followed with excitement the process when the system went live. Fortunately, everything went well, there was no technical disruption.

It was a special pleasure for us to have a lot of students at the lecture after which we received a series of positive feedback. Some wrote that it was even more interesting than sitting in a classroom.

There were those who “enjoyed the performance while lying in bed or on the couch at home”.

There were also circular questions during the lesson, and the answers were summarized and shown on the screen, so there was no problem with interactivity either.

In general, therefore, the impressions are positive from the point of view of both teachers and students.

How did you achieve the full methodological transition? What tools could the teachers choose from?

We had very little time for the transition, which could only be achieved following the principle of centrally regulated large systems. More than 1,600 subjects and related 3,000 courses are running this semester, for which we have developed standard solutions. Teachers were thus able to choose from three options.

In addition to the three packages, we also offered a unified distance learning platform to make the technical transition easier. We integrated the Moodle and Office 365 Teams systems, the latter creating course groups generated on the basis of Neptune.

This is a standardized solution, because the optimum of large systems is never equal to one of the optimum of the subsystems.

Some teachers might have preferred a different platform or solution, but a unified solution was needed for the whole system to work well. This is especially important for IT and methodological background support.

In terms of courses, most have tools to support individual learning, but video streams also work in a lot of places. There are colleagues who have already been more advanced in e-learning; obviously they were able to pick the related materials or parts of the material they needed.

How did you make sure that the requirements were met in all cases?

After the teachers selected the method that was right for them, the supervisors checked the modified data sheet for each subject. They looked to see if there was perhaps an excessive or too low requirement. Of course, there are feedbacks that in a programme there is a lot of material at the same time, or there are few live lectures, in which case, of course, we make the necessary changes and improvements.

How does the university pay attention to student feedback, and how can comments be made? Are these taken into account later and incorporated into distance learning?

Student feedback is constantly coming, the leadership of the Student Union is a very good partner in this. Over the weekend, we evaluated the experiences of the first week at length, but we already consulted on students ’perspectives and expectations when ordering distance learning. Distance learning materials were designed accordingly. There is also student feedback via email, even for a course. Students are kept informed of the latest developments directly by e-mail, Neptune message or Corvinus Communication, but a Distance Learning sub-page is also available on the website with all the important information.

Is there an area at the moment where serious development is still needed? Have you received any negative feedback?

Of course, we can and must develop in all areas.

Now it is mostly “learning by doing”, that is, learning based on experience, more and more advanced materials are being prepared in the field of content and methodology.

Not much, but obviously there was also negative feedback. It is very useful to us, we take it as constructive criticism and try to resolve the respective problems as quickly as possible.

What was the biggest challenge for teachers and experts providing the methodology-technical background in the first week?

For the teachers, the quick transition was the biggest challenge. It was necessary to think about how the original subject targets could be achieved in other ways. To do this, TDTK specialists had to develop a methodological support system, including guides, video presentations and awareness-raising materials.

From an IT perspective, the integration of Moodle and Teams was a challenge. ISZK worked hard to make everything run smoothly and to make sure that on the morning of the 23rd there was no technical downtime. The Student Services Centre (HSZK) also had to change, as students could not come to the university, so they could not handle matters either. Everything had to be transferred to a digital platform.

The scheduling of the semester also caused some problems. The intensive week ended up in the last week, as there are some optional subjects that would have been taught by an external or foreign teacher, and who were unable to deliver the course. In this case, the competent institute will offer another subject for which students can apply.

Will the systems developed during distance learning be available for use in the future?

Our Corvinus 2030 education strategy included developing our e-learning systems as well. So preparing for this was conscious, the emergency only speeded up the process.

Obviously we will not be a distance learning university, not all of our courses will be e-learning based, but the materials can be combined very well with classroom lessons as well.

In a master's degree, e.g., credit-substituting subjects can even be completed in the form of e-learning, so there would be no conflict with ordinary classroom lessons. We have already been planning this and the emergency situation has only accelerated the developments. We will use a lot of the developed systems even after the situation has been resolved.

I would like this opportunity to thank the management of ISZK, TDTK and HÖK and all their staff for their dedicated, high-quality work in the development of distance education.

Written by: Máté Kovács

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