Interview with Goran Luburić, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at ZSB: Distance Learning
We talked about the experiences of online teaching and online exams at ZSB with Vice Dean Goran Luburić, whose programming knowledge from his student days helped him navigate the world of online education software.
1. The summer semester of the current Academic year began in the extraordinary circumstances of the global pandemic of the new Covid-19 virus, followed by the earthquake that hit Zagreb. How did ZSB adapt to distance learning and the new circumstances?
ZSB “took a deep breath” and postponed the entire teaching process for a week, to make quality preparation for online processes, the goal of which was the complete transformation of on-the-spot teaching into distance teaching. A week later, everything that was envisioned was successfully implemented. Recently, all the necessary foundations for online knowledge testing in every sense have been provided, which has ensured in the short term the entire core business of ZSB is online-ready.
2. How does conducting distance learning in a virtual environment affect the quality of teaching in your opinion in the context of creativity, innovation and teamwork?
Usually when sudden changes occur, so many stakeholders were skeptical of this change. But, we reached such a level of routine within a month that I was very pleasantly surprised, as if the same has been going on for several semesters.
The concept of teaching, although basically the same, requires a slightly different pedagogical approach, it requires on average slightly more input from teachers. There is slightly less interaction between students and teachers, i.e. there is less two-way communication compared to classical teaching. I also notice that there is less “space” for quality debate or communication, like the principle of a round table, for example. The element of non-verbal communication in the communication channel is missing – sometimes such a feedback is vital for directing classroom teaching. But, on the other hand, teaching is on average faster and often times more efficient, there is less downtime during the online teaching session.
Certainly the creativity and innovation of teachers comes to the fore in this case, just as it would in classical classroom teaching. My humble opinion is that a quality knowledge transmitter (a teacher) in a classical environment will in most cases remain a quality knowledge transmitter in a virtual environment as well.
3. Teachers and students are facing summer exam deadlines. How did you prepare to conduct the examination processes? What are the reactions of teachers?
Teachers, given the nature of our study programs, can do most of the knowledge tests (approximately 70% – 80% of courses) by oral examination, which in the online environment is not technically much different from online teaching – therefore the online oral exam technique is absolutely feasible. At a recent online meeting with all teachers and associates of ZSB, we exchanged previous experiences, techniques and methods that individual teachers will use when testing students’ knowledge. In order to cover the remaining share of courses that traditionally have written exams, we have prepared a quality commercial solution, i.e. a platform for online written exams. The upcoming summer exam deadlines will show how sustainable this concept is. I sincerely believe that it is sustainable and that we will use it in the future, regardless of the situation with the Covid-19 virus pandemic, because here, in a way, it is also a matter of changing the testing paradigm.
4. Managing the teaching process in many higher education institutions is a demanding process and a responsible duty. How do you look at the last few months of work at ZSB from the prism of the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs?
Recent events, although sudden and shocking at the beginning, are a very good opportunity to show how much the organization as such is ready for fast change, and given the nature of activities (teaching, education), there is a great responsibility in the people that perform such a role, like myself, but also an opportunity to show / prove the justification of the trust placed in them by the organization. The last few months have been challenging, but in a very positive way. I must commend the entire teaching staff and all associates along with the administration, because in a short time we have shown how compact, fast and ready we are for sudden changes in extraordinary working conditions.
5. How will the experience of accelerated digitization of the entire education system affect its future?
Let me put it this way: I am pretty sure that the digitalization of the entire education system came here and now with the intention of staying, not “going back” or returning back as a product under warranty. I am sure that education will no longer remain the same as before. The way of working remotely in education, although there are still minor issues, will certainly be complementary to the classical teaching in a classroom – at least to a certain extent, but certainly more than before.