Friday 24th July 2020

Lessons learned and preparing for the future

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, distance learning and the need for professional development for teachers have rapidly become hot topics all over the world. Consequently, distance learning and TiLL competences are now even more timely than they were at the outset of the TiLL project.

Over the past few months, the Swedish COVID-19 strategy has gained considerable attention in international media. Schools and pre-schools in Sweden have been open during the pandemic, albeit with several adjustments to reduce the risk of contagion. Teaching in secondary schools has mixed classroom teaching with various forms of distance learning while upper secondary schools have involved distance learning. The educational national authorities in Sweden now pose the question: What lessons can be learned and how can we prepare the teachers for future challenges? 

The Swedish National Agency for Education advocate school leaders to ensure that teachers have access to high quality online learning environments and that they are equipped with adequate competence for online teaching. Like upper secondary schools, Swedish universities have instigated online teaching during this spring. Örebro University, which is the Swedish partner in the TiLL project, has initiated a process to gradually go back to ‘normal’ during autumn 2020, but there is an ongoing discussion as to what the new normal will be. How can the university optimize teaching and learning using a mix of campus-based classes and online learning? What can teacher education learn from online teaching and what can teacher education students make use of in their future classrooms? What competences and skills will be required in a post-covid society and in the future?

Despite the huge investment made in campus buildings, there has traditionally been little interest to study space and architecture in Higher Education (see Ellis and Goodyear 2016). Yet, due to the pandemic, the interest for design of formal learning spaces in higher education has increased, both in Sweden and internationally. Örebro university has recently started a project called New teaching and learning environments. The project focuses the relationship between space, time, teaching and learning in higher education. The ambition is not only to take advantage of the professional development that teacher educators have been forced to undergo to cope with the educational challenges that the pandemic has created but rather to offer teacher educators continuous  professional development and access to new smart  learning environments in order to deepen and develop  skills and competences needed in the future. Hopefully, the project will be a way to improve and amplify the work done in the TiLL project and to contribute to the discussion about transversal skills in smart learning environments.

References

Ellis, R. A., & Goodyear, P. (2016). Models of learning space: integrating research on space, place and learning in higher education. Review of Education, 4(2), 149–191. https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3056.