CESA and e-learning in times of pandemic

The College of Higher Administration Studies, CESA, presents us with its vision of the potential of e-learning in Colombia and how they have faced the "new normality" derived from the pandemic, by Covid-19

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CESA had already contemplated virtuality in its educational processes, long before the start of the covid-19 pandemic, which helped them make the transition to the "new normal" less complex. Thinking about complying with the protocols and requirements of the Ministry of Education, they have prepared both teachers and students and classrooms for a hybrid educational model. The importance of e-learning at CESA is evidenced in its plans for a new academic offer in this type of study, both for its Executive Training and undergraduate programs.

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

How have the universities faced the challenges that the pandemic has represented for higher education?

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.

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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 country's future leaders.

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 attendance. 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.

How have university students coped with learning challenges in the midst of the pandemic?

For the students, as well as for the teachers, it has been a constant adaptation process, in which independence and problem-solving skills and flexibility have played a predominant role. It has been a challenge for the students to be able to maintain their level of understanding and concentration. Many have seen it as an opportunity to seek new ways of learning, and for others, the feeling of academic burden and fatigue of being connected to their computers for long hours has caused a heavy emotional burden that has affected their academic performance.

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For the students, the connection factor has also been an obstacle that has often caused them problems with their subjects, even though they have been given constant support, especially at evaluation times.
Among the positive points, it has been seen that the students have assumed a greater commitment to attendance and have collaborated by providing constant feedback to make the necessary improvements to the process.

For the second semester of the year, it is expected that many of the students who took the challenge in a positive way will continue their process regardless of whether it will be face-to-face or not. For others, who found a factor of difficulty in the development of their subjects, the decision will be to postpone the 2020-II semester, waiting to return to normal face-to-face classes.

What changes in terms of technological infrastructure have you made in the institution to be able to adapt to learning at home?

CESA has strengthened its platforms to support virtual education environments, increasing the number of licenses and improving the technological infrastructure that supports them.

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The teaching staff has been provided with digitizing tablets to facilitate the development of their classes with the support of digital whiteboards, which simulate the teaching model that was being developed in the traditional classroom.

In physical infrastructure, all the rooms are being equipped with 4K technology videoconferencing cameras and microphones in order to implement a hybrid model of education, under which there will be students in the classroom and others in virtual mode.

Regarding technological support, personalized support has been provided to each of the teachers at the beginning of their classes in order to guarantee their connectivity and the optimal development of their classes. In the same way, support is provided to students who require it.

How important is online education in the academic offer of the institution?

It's very important. The new generations and cultural evolution invite us to make more and more use of new technologies to get closer to knowledge. After what we live in this time, educational institutions must rethink their modalities and methodologies. We consider that we cannot be 100% face-to-face again. We verified that there are other ways of transmitting knowledge and that mixed scenarios can be generated that strengthen the academic offer and that allow students to access higher education in different ways. This is a possibility of constituting an inclusive education.

With the new normality, does the institution have plans to change the offer of online education?

Yes, in fact, as was said before, the CESA had been evaluating it since before the pandemic. Postgraduate programs will be opened under the virtual modality. In the areas of Updating or Executive Training, and in Business Education (Undergraduate), the possibility of implementing a b-learning methodology is being studied, in which students acquire knowledge thanks to the benefits of face-to-face and virtual learning.

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