Alcalá University is one of the oldest universities in Spain. It was founded in the 15th Century and we have a lot of grades in the university. Alcalá University students were forced to quarantine, and their international students had to return to their countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With Professor Adeva, we explore how they managed to adopt ClassIn and start virtual teaching in just 2 days. Below is an interview with Professor Adeva.
Q: What’s your role at the University?
A: I am the academic coordinator of Spanish as a foreign language courses. I’m also the coordinator and manager for students and teachers. I have to create classes, timetables and everything that’s related to the administration of classes at the University.
Q: Tell us about why you adopted ClassIn.
A: A few months ago, we were talking with ClassIn and testing the program, but the actual situation in Spain with Covid-19 has accelerated our process to take on ClassIn.
It’s been 3 weeks working with ClassIn, we’ve had to learn how to use the platform in 1 day! On Friday and then on Monday, March 16th were completely online with our classes. Yes, it was very, very quick!
Q: How many students are using ClassIn and what classes are you teaching virtually?
A: Right now, we have almost 120 students learning Spanish as a foreign language with up to 20 students in one virtual class at a time. We are also doing different grades of classes like diploma and master classes. The students are doing well in that, they are enjoying discovering all the different types of things they can do with ClassIn.
We’re also thinking about preparing more courses for teachers or more specialised courses for students. Not only to learn the language but also learn things like tourism in Spain, Spanish Law or Economics.
Q: How long did it take the teachers to get accustomed to teaching on ClassIn?
A: A week, maybe a little over a week. The training class was on Friday. On Monday we did the list and schedules for the new courses and then on Thursday all the teachers had 4 hours of online classes.
We couldn’t stop the classes, so we did have to work quite hard. The first day was little messy. Teachers were writing me, “Sonia, I cannot come into the class”, “Sonia, I don’t know how to move the students video feed from the top part of the screen”, “I have 15 students and I only see the same 6 students I want to move them”.
So, I asked ClassIn for supervisor access. I joined the classes, I’m like the ghost moving from one class to another and when they have an issue I appear, “I’m here, surprise! I’m watching the class!”.
Q: How did you conduct teacher training?
A: The last time we were all at the centre we put all the teams on ClassIn and then we conducted lessons to simulate what we were going to experience on Monday and for the teachers to get used to it. It’s the first time we had to work in ClassIn and learn doing it in just 2 days.
Our teachers are not so young, so they are not so millennial. They aren’t used to using new technologies. We had to teach them how to use the platform and think about adapting presential teaching to a virtual way.
Spanish people don’t like change, the first few the teachers were a bit grumpy! But now it’s a complete change, now they are much more comfortable. I also did a small manual for the teachers. It was a full day of working with the platform in order to produce a small and quick to read manual.
Q: How do the teachers find virtual teaching?
A: Now I think they like it; they find it fun. Every time they discover a new way to use the platform, they use their chatroom to share it with the other teachers.
For example, yesterday they found that if they put a document in the tab the students can download it immediately rather than storing all the documents in ClassIn cloud they can share a document immediately. Or they can share their screen, put it in the tab and students can watch them teach on the material.
Every day they discover things and they like it. They feel more comfortable with the platform.
Q: How have students found the virtual classroom experience?
A: In general, the students like it and find it fun. The biggest problem is just they might not have their eBook yet or they can’t come into the class for one reason or another and they want to reschedule because they don’t want to miss class.
When I watch the classes I like to watch them having a coffee whilst in class. They are more relaxed. Sometimes the students live together so they’re all around one computer and they are having their breakfast and enjoying the class. They like it. When they do have any problems, they are so understanding, they are happy to wait for it to get fixed or rearrange. They seem to be having fun.
They also love that they can watch a class after its finished. For example, in the class I’m teaching for exam preparation we do a mock oral exam. And, my student, she loves it because she can watch herself after doing this practice. All the teachers love that also.
Q: Lets talk about the challenges of teaching virtually. What technical or logistical challenges have you experience?
A: Right now, we have students living in Spain, China, others in Japan and sometimes we have Erasmus students. We have people from Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom and France. The scheduling can be a little difficult because everyone is in different time zones.
Other problems they face are sometimes their connections are down so they can’t log into the class or they might have sound problems. These are technical problems, but they can happen with every single platform.
For me, for example, I don’t have great reception on my phone so I talk near the window of my home which can be a bit noisy sometimes. Those kinds of problems we can’t solve with WeChat or WhatsApp or whatever because it depends on factors that are out of our control.
For example, on Thursday one of my teachers’ text me, ‘I have problem with my internet connection’. So, we had to do the class another day because they could not connect. This isn’t a problem with ClassIn this is a problem because of the situation right now. Everyone now is connected because we’re all at home.
Q: What advice would you give to other universities thinking about using virtual classrooms?
A: Keep training the teachers, that’s the first point. Right now it seems to be that universities think that if you put all the content online, like 100s of pages on a platform and the teacher then just has to read it.
They have to think more about the new model of online classroom — training of teachers, preparing good programs of education for that new type of methodology (classes online) and a good platform that will cater for all their types of classes.