Representatives of CIVIS member universities joined in a virtual meeting hosted by the University of Bucharest, on 6 May 2020. They debated alternative methods for holding the exams scheduled for the end of the calendar semester and also different scenarios on the completion of the academic year. The attendees took this opportunity to identify the challenges that their universities face but also the opportunities raised by major topics for the whole academic community.
The pandemic crisis caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus had plenty of unexpected consequences on higher education all over the world: it sped up the implementation of higher education digital innovations, it tested the institutional capacity to face unexpected situations, the capacity to adapt to the new environment and to propose optimal strategies. In this virtual meeting, CIVIS members agreed to hold a common agenda, for the next period, based on last month’s community experience and what had been learnt.
We build on common experiences
Since the pandemic has evolved differently across the European countries, the CIVIS member universities have adapted their response to their particular situation. In order to protect the health and welfare of the academics, students and the whole administrative staff, all CIVIS member universities suspended face to face classes and switched to digital environments and resources, so they could go on with the educational activity. Online platforms and e-learning tools have been largely used to ensure continuity and quality of academic activities. Academics and students were provided with tutorials and support materials to enable proficient use of cutting-edge digital solutions. All the member universities of the CIVIS alliance aimed to provide information from reliable sources on pandemic evolution, but also to offer psychologic and pedagogic counselling services for students, academics and administrative personnel.
We maintain quality, we ensure equality
The unprecedented education shift to virtual platforms and environments brought up a substantial issue about how to remove barriers to access to high-quality learning caused by the lack of necessary material resources. The unequal distribution of material resources needed for the optimal unfolding of learning processes for students was decreased, by providing technical equipment, special learning areas which comply with safety norms into force and enable access to Internet services.
We draft plans for multiple scenarios
As we cannot foresee the pandemic evolution, all CIVIS member universities find it necessary to draft several action strategies for the scenarios we may face for the next academic year. We encourage proactive approaches as well for the post-pandemic future of higher education.
We aim to create an expertise hub
Although the last month's accelerated digitalization was a consequence of an unforeseen event, we can use this opportunity to identify the best and most innovative pedagogical practices of the online emerging education in order to create an expertise hub regarding digital solutions for distant learning. As this technological challenge is being addressed properly, we focus on pedagogic challenges and testing approaches of innovative pedagogies. It is the participation of this great educational experiment that makes it possible. CIVIS aims to co-create long term solutions and explore the potential of innovative pedagogies in this new educational environment.
We strengthen digital support systems
In the last months, substantial investments in the IT infrastructure of our universities were made. These involved the generalized use of digital resources offered to the academic community. The accelerated development of the digital infrastructure, currently able to hold the whole didactic activity, will be strengthened in order to implement at wide-scale virtual mobility, digital classes and virtual campuses.