By Ayya Lmahamad
The COVID-19 has changed the education system dramatically with many schools across the globe being shut down and over 1.2 billion children being left out of the classroom.
Many schools have switched to distance education and there is a distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and through digital platforms.
Azerbaijan was quick to respond to the changing education landscape as the government and the Ministry of Education found the right strategy to help all students and professors find new and unique way to connect and learn.
To make the transition to distance learning more straightforward, the government decided to close all educational institutions on March 3, 2020. This was followed by the introduction of online lessons for schools and university students and initiated a number of online projects to help homeschooling.
In order to overcome all technical problems arising on different online platforms, the Ministry of Education on April 2, 2020, launched a project within the framework of cooperation with Microsoft corporation called “Virtual School”.
Over one million students and 100,000 teachers have already registered and are actively using the platform.
Within the platform, each student registering in the school is assigned to a class corresponding to their age, where they perform homework prepared by teachers in accordance with the topics which are taught on weekly TV lessons. Moreover, the platform provides an opportunity for online lessons for teachers, as well as “Chat” function to communicate through video and audio calls.
By launching such a platform, Azerbaijan overcame the “headache” arising from the use of various platforms, having different approaches, and all arising technical difficulties for both students and teachers. Thus, Virtual School has become the largest online platform for cooperation and collaboration throughout the country.
Azerbaijan’s “Virtual School” solves a number of technical problems associated with distance learning such as a lack of a unified system.
Although, students are used to online courses and education, pandemic showed that education system was not prepared to switch to online education for 100 percent. The main problem was the lack of a common platform for conducting classes. After closure of all educational institutions and transferring to online learning, students complained about technical problems and increased work and it became more difficult to build communication with instructors.
Since the very start of pandemic, almost all educational institutions used platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Whatsapp for conducting classes. However, these platforms were not prepared to host a large number of students all over the world at once. For instance, while using Zoom, students needed to restart classes every 40 minutes, as this is the maximum duration of a video conference offered in the free version of Zoom program. Similar problems were experienced with Skype that is extremely slow if seminars are participated by more than five persons and Whatsapp that cannot host a seminar for more than four persons.
The lack of a unified system made online education hard from the very start. Thus, Azerbaijan’s Virtual School was a smart way of handling technical problems associated with distance education.
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