How do you face the challenges that the pandemic represents for higher education at the University?

In our special "E-learning in Colombia in times of pandemic" we asked the Universities in Colombia, how have they faced the challenges that the pandemic has represented for higher education at the University?

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Colombian universities have managed to react in a timely manner to the demands imposed by the pandemic, thanks to the fact that they have been working on processes of implementing technological infrastructure and virtualizing their educational processes. The covid-19 has also brought forward plans for the implementation of e-learning and the creation of a new academic offer for online education.

AULAPRO SPECIAL ON E-LEARNING IN COLOMBIA:
En AulaPro We invited a group of Colombian universities to tell us about their reactions, actions, perspectives and challenges that they were facing due to the "new normality" derived from the pandemic, by covid-19, and how online education or e-learning can play a fundamental role in the near future of higher education in Colombia.

These are the answers of CESA, Autonomous University of Colombia and the free University, whom we thank for their interest in participating.

Table of Contents

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Higher College of Higher Administration Studies CESA

Prior to the quarantine, in which almost 100 days have passed, CESA had been carrying out several projects aimed at being able to support classes in a manner assisted by technological means. This anticipation, supported by a rapid response from the technology and academic areas, was essential to maintain uninterrupted access to classes for the entire student population. During these almost three months, we have learned as an institution and as people to develop our academic life under the parameters of this temporary normality. Teachers and students have quickly developed new dynamics that have allowed us not only to fulfill our responsibility to educate, but also to innovate in ways of teaching, taking and developing classes.

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From day zero of this quarantine, all areas of the institution developed a coordinated plan that would allow each of the tasks to be carried out remotely, without losing sight of the joint goals that -based on the strategic pillars of CESA- all the actors we have clear Thus, the teams have been in permanent communication with each other, which has allowed fluid and relentless work to not stop for a single minute in the function of educating the future leaders of the country.

The challenges have not been few, nor easy to face. However, thanks to the leadership of the directors, always supported by the governing bodies, the first academic semester of 2020 was successfully completed. Now, the great challenge that CESA is working on is to coordinate its entire active population to be able to return, under the guidelines of the Ministry of National Education, to some level of presence. This will allow us -both teachers and students- to include in our teaching that of being able to share experiences in physical presence, a fundamental part of education.

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Autonomous University of Colombia

Indeed, it has been quite a challenge. From the Superior Council and the academic and administrative instances, we understood that it was time to accelerate the decisions previously made regarding the growth of virtual education, not only as a support for face-to-face interaction that we have had for years, but also by strengthening the institutional conditions for the creation of virtual and distance programs as permitted by current regulations.

For the Autonomous University of Colombia, the safety of the educational community is a priority, as is the provision of the service, for which the Rector, Doctor Ricardo Gómez Giraldo, created a committee to address the crisis, responsible for analyzing the situation of isolation due to pandemic and propose pertinent actions.

Therefore, Bienestar Universitario has been key in creating events to guide us in self-care in our homes, pay attention in the areas of health, sports and socioeconomic promotion and also to analyze the particular needs of the educational community.

The administrative team has had to make its procedures more flexible to respond as quickly as possible to the requirements that from one moment to the next have required us to act differently: we are physically separated, but we must connect even more.

It has been very important to promote the use of all communication tools for learning that Teachers and Students have available and reinforce their use with didactic intent, through tutorials and other forms of direct support.

The balance is that, although we long to meet again, we have adapted in the best way to preserve our health and this has allowed us to create ways of working that we will perfect.

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free University

This process has required the implementation of an entire model of organization and technological infrastructure, in which the University had been working through the e-Learning Program for several years and which the current crisis required to enlist more quickly.

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In a first stage, starting on March 20, with the announcement of the national quarantine, resources and tools began to be experimented with to facilitate administrative communication and the generation of student learning. The Microsoft Teams application was chosen as a tool to carry out synchronous meetings between teachers and students, giving continuity to the face-to-face process mediated by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), supported by other technological tools such as access to databases. digital data from our libraries, virtual laboratories and simulators, integrating our technological infrastructure with ICT for education.

Subsequently, the second phase was passed, which consisted of training teachers, monitors, students and administrators in the aforementioned tool. Live training was given and a site was created on the University's web page for consultation of courses and support material.

The third stage began on April 13 and has had to do with the implementation of the entire model in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This included monitoring students to find out if they had the necessary resources for their active participation in virtual classes. The need to provide computer equipment and internet connection to a certain number of students was determined.

In this way, 300 PCs and 150 modems for connectivity were delivered in Bogotá; in Cali 57 PCs and 72 modems; in Pereira 25 PCs and 50 modems; in Cartagena 15 PCs; in Cúcuta 12 tablets, two PCs and 12 internet packages; in Barranquilla 20 PCs, and in Socorro 67 PCs.

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