The post-pandemic university: between virtuality and tailor-made content

As is publicly known, the coronavirus produced an unprecedented global health crisis and caused a total paralysis in different spheres of society in the vast majority of the countries of the world: among them the economic, cultural and academic. To be more precise and to locate us temporarily, the disease caused by the virus impacted the UNC after the February exam tables and paralyzed the start of the 2020 school year.

With the validity of the Decree of necessity and urgency issued in March of last year by the President of the Nation, Alberto Fernández, millions of Argentines remained expectantly in their homes waiting for the resumption of their activities, among them teachers, node teachers, new entrants. , students and workers of the public university. Some rumored that it would only be weeks, but when analyzing the situation in European countries, a different picture could be outlined. This is how the authorities who headed the national health portfolio decided to extend, with the passage of time, the periods and phase one of the ASPO (Preventive and Compulsory Social Isolation).

Given the complicated panorama that was lived in the corners of the first world and with the numbers of infections and deaths on the rise, face-to-face academic activity at all educational levels was restricted. In the midst of uncertainty, Argentine public universities began to diagram and organize their contents through a new alternative for their teaching, something that, although it was present, was not completely polished: virtuality.

One of the high points that the transfer of content and virtual classes implied was the possibility of continuing with the 2020 school year as stipulated. It should be remembered that before the cancellation and postponement of classes until June of last year at the UBA, the UNC decided to continue with its classes: “Between closing our classrooms and following the school year in virtual mode, with successes and difficulties, we prefer to continue working,” declared Hugo Juri, rector of the UNC.

The arrival of the pandemic revolutionized the traditional way of teaching and students had to migrate to virtuality. This implied an organization against the clock in the adaptability of curricular contents and enormous challenges in the mechanisms of teaching for teachers and learning for students.

The public university and more precisely the National University of Córdoba, has overcome different circumstances and conflicts in key historical moments, and the pandemic has been one of them. Now, the new paradigm and the inclusion in the daily life of virtual education was the center of many opinions.

For almost more than a year and a half, the different faculties of the Casa de Trejo are in the race to optimize a planning that includes the face-to-face study of some subjects, but without losing the possibility that their students can access their contents from virtuality .

Mixed modality: the position of the UNC authorities

Juri stressed repeatedly that “Bimodality (presence and virtuality) is here to stay”.

In that sense, in statements to the Data Universitaria newscast, which is broadcast on Canal U, the rector of the Casa de Trejo insisted: “Anyone who is thinking about what post-pandemic higher education will be like is late. Virtuality and its mix with presence in education gives an improvement in university careers. What we believe will be resolved quickly is the issue of connectivity and that the entire country can access it. We have to think about advancing in equal opportunities for all ”.

It should be remembered that although there were several pilot tests focused on the return to presence in 2020 at the National University of Córdoba, many times they had to be suspended due to the increase in coronavirus infections.

The advances of the UNC were arriving with the passage of time. In general, the Faculty of Dentistry returned to practices, in Medical Sciences the same was done at the Hospital de Clínicas. On the other hand, the Faculty of Chemical Sciences organized their face-to-face practices, while in Exact Physical and Natural Sciences and the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences important agreements were signed with other universities for those students living outside the province of Córdoba that could advance in their career . Economic Sciences inaugurated new offices, Famaf took care of the acquisition of equipment to measure and therefore guarantee the ventilation conditions of classrooms in that faculty.

Some faculties opened their doors this month so that students can visit their facilities.  Photo: Faculty of Communication Sciences.
Some faculties opened their doors this month so that students can visit their facilities. Photo: Faculty of Communication Sciences.

Virtuality … forever?

Some deans have already reported that the theoretical classes will be virtual, and will remain in that format after the pandemic. So much so, that in an interview conducted by La Voz in the middle of this year with the dean of Agricultural Sciences, Conrero pointed out that “the theorists will never return and will continue virtually” and added details about the evaluation of the final exams in that house: “for the exams, students will be able to choose which modality they prefer: face-to-face or remote.”

On the other hand, Gustavo Chiabrando, dean of Chemical Sciences, said that over time: “Classes will continue in virtual format for all subjects but on the other hand all subjects of the degree will have a face-to-face activity.”

Can you aim for total virtuality in those careers that do not have practical activities? How will this impact each student’s academic preparation and subsequent professional development? This will be a question to answer over time.

How do UNC students envision studying in the future?

Francisco Western is 19 years old and is currently studying sociology at the UNC Faculty of Social Sciences. Referring to the new modality adopted in a pandemic by educational institutions around the world, the young man said: “Virtuality has come to stay and to give us a hand in a very difficult context, because although it virtually distanced us and separated us from one after another, it also allowed us to continue training ”.

Thinking about the university of the future – Francisco.

“I believe in a panorama in which virtuality and presence come together,” said Francisco.

For the student Milena Tercero from the Faculty of Arts, the transfer to virtuality created a possibility, but also a limitation. “Many colleagues who were outside of Córdoba were able to access knowledge through virtuality. However this does not mean that access was limited. Not all colleagues have access to a stable device or internet ”.

Thinking about the university of the future – Milena.

In this sense, Milena admitted the importance for a student to be able to progressively return to the classroom: “It is impossible for me to continue studying in virtuality. It is necessary to return to the university city and meet each other again. To be able to live the faculty, the career and the university as it is lived within its face-to-face territory. It is a necessity (…) There is no other way to know if we like a race if we do not feel it ”.

Carla Malvacio, current FCS student, was optimistic about the advancement of virtuality in higher education: “I imagine a future with the implementation of tools so that virtuality remains and makes it easier for everyone to study even at a distance, but also being able to implement again the face-to-face modality with all cities.

Thinking about the university of the future – Carla.

Although in these times the return of students to the classroom begins to be much more progressive in each of the UNC’s Faculties, the pandemic changed the way of teaching and learning academic content. What is the outlook for the future? Hybrid classrooms and virtual classes came to university city to stay. The next step and objective to establish for this to work is centered on a premise: guaranteeing internet access as a universal right that guarantees students a quality education.

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