Corona spring as a change in teaching methods

Spring 2020 at KSL Study Centre in Finland

My name is Jukka and I work as educational producer at KSL Study Centre which is a leftist adult education institute in Finland. Here is my short reflection on the exceptional first half a year of 2020. The corona epidemic began in Finland at the beginning of March. The virus came to Finland mainly with Finnish tourists returning from Southern Europe. The turn of February-March is a winter holiday period in Finland, which includes more foreign travels than usual.

The Finnish government reacted sharply to the situation with covid -19 from the beginning. Immediately in mid-March, the government announced a lockdown in the country that closed restaurants, sports venues, libraries, schools and theatres. Gatherings of more than ten people were banned and the southern province, where the virus spread most rapidly, was closed from the rest of the country by a movement ban. No similar exceptional measures have been seen in Finland since the Second World War.

KSL Study Centre is an adult education institute providing mainly short courses for its member organisations and other civil society organisations. The courses are mostly held at the civil society organisations’ own locations or for example at congress hotel venues.

For KSL the lockdown meant cancellation of all contact teaching and our staff started to work from home. Some of the planned contact teaching was replaced by online teaching, but large part of the trainings had to be cancelled as it was not possible to implement the courses online or it would have required longer preparation. There was a major break in KSL's training activities.

KSL responded to the break by shifting the focus to planning and preparation of future training. We also had more time for preparation of study materials. Meetings among colleagues and with partners were conducted as online meetings. KSL’s staff also agreed on a daily joint "online coffee break" in the Teams app. This common break became an important meeting session, where experiences of the stress and anxiety caused by the situation were also shared.

The interruption in KSL's operations caused by the corona epidemic will permanently change KSL's teaching activities. At the spring strategy meeting, it was decided that in the future all trainings will be planned so that they can also be implemented online. E-learning is becoming a new norm for some of the training.

The experiences we had of e-learning during this spring have been encouraging. In addition to Teams, Zoom application was introduced in KSL’s online trainings. A German project partner of TeDiCom project (ERASMUS+) was a big help in introducing Zoom to us. It turned out that there was more technical and mental readiness at KSL and among our learners to implement e-learning than what we had recognized earlier. On the other hand, it has also become clear that e-learning cannot completely replace face-to-face teaching – the contact between the educator and learners is essentially different in contact teaching and therefore it will always have a permanent and important place in KSL’s pedagogy.

The corona epidemic is currently under good control in Finland. The number of deaths due to corona virus has risen to just over 300, and there are about 7,000 confirmed infections. At present, the epidemic is no longer spreading. On the other hand, we are just starting to see the social and economic consequences of the sharp lockdown. Clearly, the lockdown has already increased social anxiety and driven the economy into recession.

It is also known that the epidemic may spread again in the fall and winter. If this happens, KSL's new online strategy is prepared to respond.