A tale of two countries – Online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Claned

Imagine this. It is a beau­tiful Spring day, birds are chirping, and the sun is shining. You are a school admin­is­trator sitting in your office and going through your daily files to make sure that everything will run smoothly for the rest of the semester. Then one day you start to hear whispers of a looming crisis that might up-end all your plans and make normal life a thing of the past. In fact, the crisis has already dis­rupted the lives of hun­dreds of mil­lions of people around the world, and it’s only a matter of time before it will make your daily life a whole lot dif­ferent. How do you react? You must do some­thing, right?

Well, it is not hard to imagine this scenario since everyone’s lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pan­demic. Schools are no exception. Con­ducting in-person edu­cation has become impossible in many coun­tries. One com­monly adopted way of coping has been to move classes online. To do that, edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions have had to train their teachers and faculty to work in a com­pletely new manner to get the advantages of online learning. Some schools have had more exper­ience in dis­tance teaching, some a little less, but the efficacy of how the classes have been imple­mented worldwide has been varied to say the least.

Two countries, one solution

In our story, two schools in two dif­ferent coun­tries went through this scenario although their needs were not exactly the same. CAPYEI, a Kenyan NGO ded­icated to teaching job entry level skills to out-of-school youth, and Xamk, a uni­versity of applied sci­ences in Finland, both had at least some exper­ience in organ­izing online classes before it became a necessity.

CAPYEI had started col­lab­or­ating with Claned in 2019. To get the advantages of online learning, they wanted to transfer a couple of their entre­pren­eurship courses from physical classrooms to online classrooms. With Claned’s learning design ser­vices and CAPYEI’s course materials, the first courses were soon built and went live.

At the same time, Xamk were already swimming much deeper in the pool of online edu­cation. They had iden­tified a couple of potential future problems (and oppor­tun­ities) that made digital classes an appealing path to explore. They, too, had partnered up with Claned to turn their ideas into reality.

Whether it was a little or a lot, the exper­ience of both schools would be bene­ficial in over­coming the chal­lenges imposed by the soon-to-hit pan­demic. You see, instead of having to start everything from square one, their wheels were already in motion.

How to reach learners around the world

There were two main reasons why Xamk wanted to provide more digital learning. First of all, they under­stood that there is an ever-growing need in the world for quality edu­cation. According to their Rector Heikki Saastamoinen, they see a demand for edu­cation all over the world, but espe­cially in Asia and Africa, where the pop­u­lation is growing and prospering faster than the local edu­cation supply is increasing. This creates a business oppor­tunity for Xamk’s operations.

Another prom­inent reason for exporting edu­cation was the worry of losing their own stu­dents in the future. Xamk is in Southeast Finland, and young people espe­cially are likely to move to big cities in other areas inside the country in increasing numbers.

The role of inter­na­tional stu­dents was becoming an increas­ingly important part of Xamk’s future strategy. Then COVID-19 hit, which meant that it became much more dif­ficult for exchange stu­dents to come to study at Xamk in the tra­di­tional way. The same applied to all kinds of visits and inter­na­tional collaborations.

The need to use the advantages of online learning grew ever greater. Luckily, Xamk had already been working on a solution in the form Micro Courses, short online lessons, that would be available for pur­chase to anyone around the world. They had the resources to produce the courses them­selves, but they still needed a platform where the learners could com­plete their courses.

To achieve this, Xamk partnered up with Claned. One of the biggest upsides of Claned is that it works with any existing systems that an organ­iz­ation might have. This meant that Xamk could use the materials and tools they already had. Therefore, teaching with Claned allowed them to con­tinue to create and offer Micro Courses without unne­cessary speedbumps.

Moving everything online

We are more than happy. These last weeks that we’ve dept into Claned fea­tures and worked with the team in the design of our learning path have been mind-blowing. Now our approach to the design of learning exper­ience is more social and more col­lab­or­ative. That is going to have a huge pos­itive impact on how the Explorers achieve their goals.

In Kenya, CAPYEI had ini­tially been inter­ested in trans­ferring only a couple of their existing entre­pren­eurship courses online. This meant that all the same course materials would be available online on the Claned platform, along with short video lessons.

To make the trans­ition work out smoothly, Claned provided CAPYEI with learning design ser­vices. This included an intro­duction to the new platform, famil­i­ar­ising its best prac­tices and assisting in the cre­ation of their first online courses.

Everything went fine and CAPYEI ini­tiated their first digital classes. Then came 2020, and the COVID-19 pan­demic started looming in the dis­tance. Before you knew it, arranging in-person teaching became impossible in Kenya, and CAPYEI sud­denly had over 1,700 stu­dents who wouldn’t be able to attend their regular edu­cation. Classes needed to be taken online and fast.

Claned and CAPYEI started a “speed lane” project, where the goal was to create dozens of online courses in a brief period of time to allow learning to con­tinue without interruptions.

The key to success in this project was to make course cre­ation scalable. We used the existing teaching materials to create a uni­versal course tem­plate, a blank canvas, where any teacher could add their course materials. This way course cre­ation was made simple, so that it would require as little tech­nical know­ledge as pos­sible, and new courses could go live without over­bur­dening the teachers.

In the end, with Claned’s exper­ience and CAPYEI’s ded­icated effort, we were able to launch 68 online courses and to ensure that stu­dents could con­tinue learning essential voca­tional skills uninterrupted.

How well did it go?

In both cases, in Kenya and in Finland, edu­cation was moved online and pro­ceeded unin­ter­rupted. The next question was, how well did the online courses work and what were the advantages of online learning?

Patience Abigael, a student from CAPYEI, was enrolled on one of the courses affected by COVID-19. She recalls her exper­i­ences, “So, in the middle of our training, the COVID-19 pan­demic struck, and we had to stop our physical learning. The organ­iz­ation decided to introduce an e-learning platform, which was the Claned app, where we were able to access our remaining topics and do assess­ments which helped us realize where we have weak­nesses and where our strengths lie.”

Wil­fried Mogeni, a former CAPYEI student, thinks the online learning platform allowed for straight-forward learning, “Through the assessment tests we could com­plete, the teachers could dir­ectly get back to us, and you could instantly know your grades, your per­formance, and you were able to focus much more on your next revisions.”

Besides indi­vidual exper­i­ences, CAPYEI wanted to get a clear under­standing of how well the switch from in-person teaching to online classrooms had suc­ceeded. To do this, we used the data that our online learning platform col­lects from every inter­action that happens on it.

The results were over­whelm­ingly pos­itive. First, 97% of stu­dents com­pleted their courses. Then we also com­pared neg­ative and pos­itive exper­i­ences on the platform. A whopping 97.1% of all learning exper­i­ences were pos­itive. Overall, our data ana­lysis did not indicate neg­at­ivity towards online learning or learning in general. You could say the project was a success.

Learn more about the project with CAPYEI by peeking at our CAPYEI case study.

Then what about the other school, Xamk from South-Eastern Finland? How did things go with them? Well, their feelings about Claned and online learning can be best summed up by a couple of com­ments from their faculty.

“Claned is suitable for com­mercial courses. Our teachers are saying that it’s easy to use. This kind of platform with this kind of content, activ­ating tasks and assessment system is easy for those who are pro­ducing courses as well as for the stu­dents who com­plete the courses,” says Tiina Parkkonen, e-learning coordinator at Xamk.

Pekka Pulkkinen, the project manager for Xamk’s Micro Course ini­ti­ative, wraps things up by saying, “You have very good people working there. You are not only a tech­nical partner. You are more to us.”

If you would like to hear how Claned can help your organ­iz­ation learn better, send us a message with the contact form.

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