Although distance learning at Semmelweis University has been running on a near-constant level for the past three weeks, students working on the new system still welcome constructive suggestions. Our interview with the leader of the e-learning team, György Árpád Keskeny, can be read below.
Szinapszis: In about two weeks, the entire university education had to switch to e-learning, in addition to the fact that until then there was hardly any tangible educational-administrative interface. How have/did you manage the pace of development?
György Árpád Keskeny: Great! At the beginning of February, an e-learning team had already been formed within the Education Committee. Initially, we designed the pace of distance learning development differently. At first, there were only a few of us, roughly twelve to thirteen on the team, with the goal of developing an online educational interface. However, the epidemic dictated a different pace and a slightly different order in achieving our goals. Our tasks multiplied and required an extraordinary pace in their implementation. So, we hired more fellow students to our small team, who did a great and conscientious job. We were not idle during the break ordered by the Rector either. We dedicated all of our energies to build the distance learning system, which began on March 23rd. Once the distance learning started, the pace of work eased, not to mention the tension involved, but luckily the team spirit and teamwork in the e-learning development team is great.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone who helped create the e-learning team within the Students’ Union (SU).
Sz.: What tasks do those working on system development perform?
Gy. Á. K.: The SU e-learning team has several tasks. Perhaps the most important of these is the support of students and teachers. It is important to emphasize that we also collect feedback and experiences from the students, organize them and then forward them to respective authorities.
We wrote Facebook posts, Neptun messages, made tutorial videos and “How to” guides and shared them with students in 3 languages (Hungarian, English, German). We help in every way we possibly can!
Sz.: When distance learning started, what were the first feedbacks?
Gy. Á. K.: With each change made, new tasks arose. We felt it was important to help the institutes and our fellow students to contact us with confidence regarding any issues arising with distance education. Of course, in the beginning, everyone was new to the situation created by distance learning, and there were many difficulties. There are several who work at Semmelweis University to make distance learning work well. This is the result of tremendous teamwork.
Sz.: How have these changed by now?
Gy. Á. K.: I believe that the epidemiological situation has taken a toll on everyone. Fortunately, everyone is open and helpful. Many are frightened that not only their health but also their studies, or even the functioning of the university may be at risk. Lots of people inquired about what to do next and wrote about the issues that arose. Several breakthroughs have been achieved in the digitalization of education. We get a lot of positive and encouraging feedback, which we are very happy about.
Sz.: At the student forum on March 31, it was discussed that the completion of theoretical subjects can be solved easily, but the university is largely practice-oriented. How can e-learning help to organize and conduct practical classes?
Gy. Á. K.: Retaining practical classes in the context of distance learning is a difficult task. This is a challenge for all participants, students and teachers alike. Fortunately, the combination of IT services Zoom and Moodle helps to bridge and reduce difficulties. The teaching and crediting of practical lessons will be done as stated by the Rector at the student forum. The report is available on the Moodle under the Student Support menu item.
Sz.: I think most students and teachers can be satisfied with the way the system works. What is your opinion?
Gy. Á. K.: Yes, we really get a lot of positive feedback. The fact that the system could be set up was a huge team effort. It took a lot of work, energy and people for the university to transition to distance learning.
Sz.: If the epidemic subsides, is it possible that e-learning will be included in the toolbox of traditional curricular education in some form?
Gy. Á. K.: In my opinion, anything is possible. The demand is already evident. The question is rather how big this demand is, and whether all teachers and students would support e-learning. We hope that we will continue to use the currently functioning improvements during traditional curricular education.
Sz.: Do you have any development ideas or projects for the future?
Gy. Á. K.: Considering the experiences so far, we have many ideas. In addition to supporting the current system with our work, we are currently collecting further progressive ideas and suggestions from our fellow students in the questionnaire created on the Student Support interface.