Spanish Universities During the COVID-19 Crisis

di Elisa Farinacci

Spanish Universities During the COVID-19 Crisis

Spanish Universities During the COVID-19 Crisis

In Spain, both the shelter-in-place and the closure of schools and universities were mandatory starting from March 16, 2020. The very first days were chaotic. School teachers and university faculty did not receive clear information on how to proceed and prioritize tasks.

Spanish universities collaborate and make decisions within the body of CRUE (Conferencia de Rectores de las Universidades Españolas), an organization formed by the presidents (rectors) of every university in the country. CRUE is the organization that brings together the higher education system and the Spanish Ministry of Education (central government). CRUE plays a major role in  regulatory developments that affect higher education in our country.

The very first action taken by CRUE in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the launching of an online forum. This forum aimed at helping Spanish universities to share actions and experiences on how to move face-to-face courses online. The forum held on March 17th was attended by more than 200 experts in online teaching. The working group composed by the CRUE, the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), decided to unify the previously mentioned online forum and create a platform called “CONNECTED: The University at Home”. This group will carry out the work of coordinating initiatives to collect useful resources, dissemination, responses to queries and sharing action plans between Spanish universities.

On March 26, a second second online forum was held in which more than 300 people connected. In the conference people showed a great concern about data protection and, above all, the remote surveillance during the evaluation tests.

In parallel to the previous initiative, presidential cabinets of higher education institutions have also promoted a variety of actions to support the online delivery of courses that were originally delivered in a face-to-face fashion. They include the following:

  1. Universities have organized quick trainings for faculty in the use of resources and virtual platforms available on each university ,and more specific training on multimedia creation  (i.e. videos, surveys, assessments, etc.)
  2. Universities have also developed online guides for resources and guidelines to work online (for faculty and students). These guides received a multitude of visits in the days following confinement. These guides are updated with new content as weeks go by. In general, the use of the tools, the time of visits, the number of users, the creation of hours of materials and resources has doubled. This huge increase in the usage of online tools, and the production of teaching and learning resources, has led to some technical issues. Hence, universities have started recommending not to use certain tools (i.e. videoconferencing systems) at peak times (10:00 to 13:00) ,as well as the use of external tools and resources not associated with the university.
  3. The universities developed general recommendations on monitoring, communication and support for students.
  4. The universities demand the content adaptation of the courses syllabus according to the new situation.  
  5. The universities have designed guidelines and recommendations for the evaluation of learning. Which is currently one of faculty biggest concerns. 

In general, the situation revealed that there are no real online models and the institutions and teachers are not prepared for the virtual education framework. Although it has shown an outstanding degree of development and technological maturity, and the response was made quite quickly, if we talk in terms of pedagogy there is a lack of reflection in this way because, the adaptation to the online context it has been done responding in a “pedagogy of need” framework. 

Lorea Fernandez Olaskoaga is an associate professor at the Faculty of Education, Philosophy  and Anthropology of the University of the Basque Country-Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea in Spain. She teaches the subjects of Technologies Applied to Primary Education and General Didactics in the Primary Education degree. She is a member of the consolidated research group Elkarrikertuz (IT1265-19) and her research lines focuses on teaching learning and the exchange of experiences for educational reflection and the construction of knowledge between teachers and students through narrative processes, the media digital and a post-qualitative perspective. She is also a member of the REUNI+D network and president of RUTE (Red Universitaria de Tecnología Educativa).

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Largo Fra Agostino Gemelli, 1 - 20123 Milano
Tel. 02-72343038 / 02-72343036 (direzione)

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