Distance education without emergencies

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After completing 15 years since its creation, the Integrated Center for Online Learning (Ciar) remains as a support and training space for the use of digital information and communication technologies (TDIC) and in the implementation of the distance education modality (EaD) at the Federal University of Goiás, always striving articulation between quality in education and pedagogical and technological innovations in its processes.

Despite various concerns, sometimes justified, about the negative consequences that this modality can bring to management processes and educational practices, the reality of implementing distance education courses at UFG, either at the undergraduate or graduate level and in several continuing education programs, show how using digital information and communication technologies and appropriate methodologies can achieve good results, not only for quality education, but also for greater democratization of access to the university.

Created in 2007, in the context of the launch of the federal program Universidade Aberta do Brasil (UAB), Ciar has followed various projects to create distance education courses and provided support through training programs for professors, mentors and students, technological support and pedagogical support. for a virtual institutional learning environment, development of pedagogical materials in different media – print, digital and audiovisual -, support in financial management of resources arising from the program, with support in advertising and publication of courses.

The first moves towards the official implementation of distance education activities at the university actually took place in the early 2000s, with the creation of the Center for Teaching, Research and Consulting in Distance Education, UFG Virtual. At that time, the body was associated with the deanship for counseling and culture at the UFG, when the university participated, through some academic units, in several projects of courses, agreements and programs aimed at the use of TDIC and in the distance modality.

In 15 years, UFG has already offered more than 40 distance courses, training more than 12 thousand students

From the beginning, in accordance with its mission of “generating, systematizing and socializing knowledge and knowledge, training experts and individuals capable of promoting the transformation and development of society”, projects that worked on the implementation of distance education at the university always prevailed. quality in education, enabling the democratization of access through the internalization of courses, in the sense of allowing the participation of students from the most remote locations within and sometimes outside the state of Goiás, meeting the diverse needs of students.

In this 15-year period, UFG has already offered more than 40 distance courses, at the undergraduate, specialization and master’s levels, along with training and extension courses, training more than 12,000 students. Detailed information on these courses can be found on the Ciar website, as well as a record of the EaD timeline at UFG, highlighting various developments in the field of education.

Of the various impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the two initial years, 2020 and 2021, the ways of school education were undoubtedly the ones that left the most continuations in all its members. The implementation, most times forced and without proper planning, of TDIC in schools at their different levels of training, has resulted in a series of developments, either in the way of thinking about the use of these technologies, or in gaps in the training of part of the teaching subjects.

The so-called Emergency Distance Education (ERE), adopted as a way to meet the demand for access to the university during the period of social isolation caused by the pandemic, basically consisted of a forced transition from the classroom to an online environment. Because it took place in a context where it was not known how long we would be isolated and because of the urgent need to avoid further damage to the students’ curriculum completion, the ERE was established based on planning limited to the available conditions and because of a lack of training and infrastructure suitable for characterization as a distance modality. What was expected to last 6 months ended up being extended to 2 years, when finally, after access to vaccination and infection control conditions, we were able to gradually return to face-to-face spaces.

One of the consequences of this period was the emergence of two ways of thinking about the use of TDIC and distance education in the university community and in the general population: the first, resistant to distance education and concerned about their entry into the university, for they do not know what distance learning is ; and the other, blinded by the modality and eager to immediately implement it in the courses, also because he does not know what distance education is. In fact, if there is something in common between Emergency Distance Learning and distance education modalities, it is the fact that both make extensive use of some technologies that enable remote contact between participants in the teaching and learning process. However, this usage is significantly different, to the extent that academics and experts working in the field agree that they are not synonymous at all.

In order to have a course in the distance modality, it is necessary to take into account several factors as a minimum. Among them, I highlight: the appropriateness of the used methodologies and didactic-pedagogical strategies, the democratic approach to technologies and the training of the actors involved. Regarding the methodology, it can be highlighted that one of the characteristics of distance education is that distance does not mean only the geographical distance between teacher and student, but also temporal dispersion in which access to content and activities is limited. most of the time it happens asynchronously, that is, at different times. A student can, for example, access the content at night, while his colleague will work on the same material only in the morning of the next day. This, in itself, requires a specific way of thinking about how the content will be organized, since synchronous meetings, i.e. at the same time, may not be possible.

Contrary to common sense, most courses in the distance education modality, especially at the undergraduate level, provide for face-to-face meetings.

Contrary to common sense, most courses in the distance education modality, especially at the undergraduate level, allow for face-to-face meetings, sometimes for evaluation and others for laboratory practices, internships, and field activities. These face-to-face moments, however, do not change the nature of the modality and are part of the planning of disciplines, often taking place in centers across the country, held through agreements signed between universities and public institutions at different levels. This allows students not only to attend these face-to-face moments in places close to their homes, but also to have access to technological resources that they might not have at home, such as computers and an Internet connection.

On the other hand, the use of a virtual learning environment to make texts available for reading in the disciplines or the realization of some synchronous meetings through web conferencing tools are not in themselves sufficient to characterize the course as a distance modality. , considering that the use of technologies is not the only, nor the main defining paradigm of the modality. There is a requirement to adapt the teaching material to the nature of the presented content. Most often, own technological solutions are needed, such as the production of videos in the format of animations, documentaries, films or in the development of multimedia games, responsive e-books, with the proper use of virtual learning resources. environments, such as forums, wikis, assessment tools, among others.

All this in order to guarantee the student active participation in the teaching and learning process, which does not, even remotely, reject the practices of cooperation and social inclusion that characterize the broad meaning of education. In order for all of this to be possible, specific training in this area is essential, especially in order to understand that these are practices that differ from those adopted in face-to-face classes, with which most teachers, accustomed to the traditional classroom, are not familiar.

Due to all of the above, the academic community and in general need to understand that the experiences brought by ERE do not serve as a parameter for criticizing distance education, nor for its glorification, because it is about completely different contexts and specificities. What can be concluded is that, if we can be convinced that a lot has been lost on this path of implementing the intervention modality of teaching, it should be noted that there have also been advances that should be included in the following guidelines that will be discussed. directions of education from now on.. In this sense, UFG works tirelessly to adapt this modality to the demands of society and the academic community, as already mentioned, striving for quality, democratization of education and innovation in its various possibilities.

Wagner flag He is the director of the Integrated Center for Online Learning (Ciar/UFG).

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