The Media Laboratory of the university Universidad de La Frontera together with the Office for Continuous Education of the Faculty of Engineering and Science trained the academic staff, students and assistants for undergraduate online classes with the clear aim of expanding their knowledge about e-classes, e-learning and the new functions of the Virtual Campus platform.
The current health emergency challenges our society in many ways, for example when it comes to the continuity of education processes. In response to that, the Universidad de La Frontera (UFRO) decided to carry out the first semester of 2020 online, a reality that is completely new for most teachers and students.
With the aim of providing optimal conditions for this online semester, the Faculty of Engineering and Science (FICA) implemented through its Media Laboratory and with the help of the Office for Continuous Education a series of online courses and workshops on e-learning and teaching.
“We are convinced that distance education is a more and more important way of learning in our society and there is no doubt, that we will make great progress in this field during and after the pandemic. We also know that the situation we are dealing with is absolutely exceptional and that it is a big challenge to prepare and complete courses that normally would take months in only weeks. That can cause a lot of stress, in addition to other situations we have to face,” Dr. Juan Pablo Cárdenas, the director of the Media Laboratory, pointed out.
Against this background, he adds that “the team of the Media Laboratory and the team for Continuous Education of our faculty have been working hard to develop a basic and compact model in order to simplify the start of this online semester as much as possible. We applied all our experience in distance education and we are constantly working in order to provide the best support possible for this difficult task”.
The Media Laboratory carried out 14 workshops for teachers, 10 for students and 3 workshops for class assistants, in addition to a “Virtual Campus Assistance” course for academic staff and another one for the students, in order to make them familiar with the different educational resources and tools the platform offers.
“The training provided by the Media Laboratory regarding the use of the Virtual Campus was very important for organizing and standardizing our online teaching during this first semester. It is a great challenge for everyone to teach under the condition of virtuality in the context of the health crisis we all confront. We have to make sure that these classes are of quality, so the students can learn and feel confident about them. Having that in mind, one way to improve is to continuously provide trainings for everyone who’s involved. On the other hand, we must be open to the suggestions and opinions of the students, in order to make our classes more efficient,” Dr. Erick Scheuermann, the Academic Secretary of FICA and an academic staff member of the Chemical Engineering Department, said.
Dr. Magaly Sandoval, an academic staff member of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, pointed out: “It was important for me to have participated in this training, since I chose to change to the FICA template for the subjects I teach. Thanks to these workshops I learnt how to use it in a didactic way and in much less time. The workshops on Zoom were also very clear, because they shared many tips, which I am currently putting into practice during my classes.”
She adds that “the space for “Virtual Campus Assistance” is really great, because you can find everything you need to prepare your online classes in accordance with the guidelines of the Vice-rectorate for Undergraduate Affairs, including links to the recordings of the workshops, in case you need to view them again. And, most importantly, the support doesn't end there. I can send them my questions whenever I need to and they always respond very quickly and resolve the problems. For the same reason, I just want to thank and congratulate the professionals of the FICA Media Laboratory for their Virtual Teaching Training workshops to which they invited us. It is a privilege to have such dedicated professionals at UFRO.”
The feedback received from the students who participated in these workshops was also very positive. Jhandary Muñoz, who studies Civil Engineering, says that “the implementation of the workshop for assistants was a very good idea, considering the situation in which we find ourselves and that online classes are something new for all of us, both teachers and students. It helped us to clearly understand what the assistant's tasks will be during this semester and how we can approach this new way of teaching and learning in the best way possible”.
In addition, this student, who is currently an assistant in the subjects of Asphalt Paving Technology and Transport Engineering, adds: “Personally, I think that the university has put a lot of effort into the preparations for this online semester, trying to convert it into a good experience for everyone. And I think that if we all put in a little effort, we can learn as much as our in-person classes.”
In total, a number of 150 members of the academic staff, 288 assistants, 92 teachers and 510 students (376 freshmen and 134 students of higher courses) participated in the courses and workshops.
It is also important to mention that the Media Laboratory supported the creation and implementation of a FICA template that considers 2 important components: 1) structure, which allows the development of an instructional design, providing guidelines and guides to organize the training development process and 2) layout, with a modern approach, easy to navigate and compatible with mobile devices. This template is being used in 303 undergraduate courses taught during this semester, which is completely online.
The Media Laboratory of the Faculty of Engineering and Science of the Universidad de La Frontera is dedicated to supporting innovations in engineering education through the promotion of multimedia materials created locally by academic and specialized staff in order to facilitate the work, visualization design and virtualization of content.
In the medium term, this unit seeks to become a center of advanced technological support for educational purposes in different fields of engineering, online education and the integration of educational videos in 2D and 3D.
Written by: Daphne Bormann