Should universities eliminate virtuality and return to face-to-face?

The sanitary measures and provisions that were imposed in the country 27 months ago to contain covid-19 led to the suspension of face-to-face classes, not only in schools and colleges, universities also had to teach remotely.

Now that the Ministry of Health has modified the use of masks and eliminated the capacity in various spaces, and other measures, with the intention of returning to the “new normality”, there is talk that the classrooms will once again receive the students.

But in the case of higher education, this is a possibility that universities are still weighing, since virtuality opened the window of access to a greater number of people to study a university career, among other advantages.

Carlos Aldana, university professor and doctor of Education, is of the opinion that it is not possible to return to face-to-face attendance as it was proposed before 2020. First of all, a “responsible return” must be considered, taking care of certain biosecurity measures to prevent coronavirus contagion.

Positive cases of covid-19 continue to appear among Guatemalans, from May 1 to 10, 4,102 were reported, parallel to a stagnation of vaccination against the disease.

Taking into consideration that the virus is still circulating in the country, this second semester of 2022 should be more focused on hybridity -face-to-face and remote-, and the return to the classroom should not be abrupt but rather gradual. We must take advantage of the use of virtual platforms.

Also read: Government publishes new restrictions due to covid-19 in Guatemala, in addition to the use of a mask

“Why are we going to abandon the possibilities of the advances achieved -methodological and technological conquests- when we could put them at the service of a return to the new reality. We can take advantage of hybrid evidence, and there will be face-to-face moments. That is the wealth that the pandemic gave us,” says Aldana.

One point to consider in this responsible return should be access to public transportation, mentions the professor at the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, which until now is an undiscussed issue, such as the economic blow that it would represent for those who travel by private vehicle.

Continuing completely remotely would not be positive either, since the accommodation of the students would be increased, and the possibility of dialogues and discussions with the professors is lost, that is the benefit of opting for a hybrid model, according to the interviewee.

a middle point

Putting virtuality aside could reduce student enrollment in universities. In the case of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala (Usac), this modality allowed more people to start or resume their university studies, but if they bet completely on face-to-face attendance, this would lead to overcrowding in classrooms, which were already insufficient before the pandemic. to hold the students.

During 2020 and until this first semester of 2022, the sancarlistas have received virtual classes, and face-to-face courses are taken in the case of laboratories in careers such as Engineering, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, and Medicine -the students attend hospitals-.

It is expected that next week the Superior University Council will define whether the following semester will continue with the same work dynamics or if it will change.

According to Aldana, a professor at USAC, it should be considered that virtuality contributed to autonomous learning by students, which gives them the ability to study at their own pace, dedication and research. A level that every college student should achieve.

Read also: The uncertain leap from diversified to university, will young people be prepared?

“The accompaniment of education through content and virtual education channels is part of the new normality,” says the Department of Communication of the Da Vinci University of Guatemala, and with the pandemic a different way to learn is proposed, the contents For university students, digital multimedia are the printed textbooks that were being used.

In addition, both students and teachers see advantages in this modality since it allows them to study at the time and place that is most convenient for them. Professors have developed new ways of teaching.

The return must be safe, preventive health measures are required, and that implies a different logistics than what was done in times before the pandemic, considering that there are activities that require attendance.

“The conditions of the return are being analyzed by the management teams of each faculty, considering the needs of each training area, and emphasizing the incorporation of new technologies, different methodologies to ensure learning and the development of the skills of each career”, is the decision that will be made at Da Vinci University, where “the opening will be carried out gradually, seeking a balance, a balance between the virtual and the face-to-face”.

virtual classes
Universities found in virtuality the way to get closer to students during the pandemic. The flexibility offered by this model is one of its advantages. (Free Press Photo: PL Hemeroteca)

The Universidad del Valle de Guatemala has adopted the hybrid model of education during the pandemic, in accordance with what is allowed by the epidemiological traffic light. With the new provisions established by the Ministry of Health, the authorities of this university are analyzing how classes will continue in the second semester.

At the Rafael Landívar University, the students also joined the hybrid model, and this is how the first semester will end, for the next one the way in which the classes will be taught is evaluated.

Also read: Study with the help of the internet

Virtuality, adds to education

Although virtual education was given before the pandemic, as of 2020 it was the way in which many universities found a way to continue the educational process, this evidenced the advantages offered by this modality.

On the other hand, it has no borders and is flexible to the needs of the student and teacher. In addition, it allows reaching spaces where traditional education cannot, it also makes it easier for specialists and connoisseurs to interact from a distance, such as studying asynchronously.

“We must promote access to higher education as broad as possible for everyone,” says Aldana, so the return to university should be considered the hybrid model.

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