Response to COVID-19: A proof of concept for blended eLearning

This initiative comes from ASR - Austria | GER - Germany | HEL - Switzerland | LIT - Lithuania and Latvia
Jesuit Worldwide Learning – Higher Education at the Margins students continue to study - even more intensively – despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesuit Worldwide Learning has provided quality, tertiary blended eLearning opportunities to refugees and other marginalised communities across the globe since 2010.

Despite the shut-down of almost all our community learning centres in March and April, JWL programmes reaching 3,500 students continued without serious interruption.

Students enrolled in online academic and professional courses continued their studies and with additional time available to them, studied even more intensively, enrolled in two to three courses at a time. The majority of students enrolled in the Global English Language programme who had access to the JWL Learning Management Systems (LMS) – which offers the course and audios in digital form on smartphones and computers) were able to continue, while students dependent on the onsite classroom and teacher faced greater difficulties.

The main challenges faced relate to poor connectivity, power cuts and the obsolescence of personal mobile phones (to connect to the internet). The main challenge from a student’s point of view is isolation – students missed social interaction, especially with their peers in the learning centres. In some countries, students were forced to interrupt their studies to focus on day-to-day food security.

Some learning centres provided laptops, tablets and internet data bundles to students to be used at home during the lockdown. Each centre uses alternative communication tools to stay connected with their students based on local needs/resources. Students found creative solutions to stay connected via digital communication tools, and supported each other, where possible. Flexibility in terms of adjusting assignment deadlines has been key to keeping students motivated and on track.

During this time, JWL also developed the first units of a Coronavirus Crash Course, providing its students with accurate information on the virus, the pandemic, and preventative measures. The course is available to any person who wishes to sign up for it. In response to challenges faced by German teachers in switching to digital teaching overnight, JWL developed a 40-hour (4 weeks) intensive eEducation Tools course. Within the first two months, 564 persons signed up for the course and most of them have completed it. The success of the German version has encouraged JWL to build the English version and offer it to teachers in Jesuit projects and schools around the world, as well as other partners engaged with poor and marginalised communities, to enhance the e-learning skills needed to cope with the shutdown of schools. It is due to be offered from beginning of September.

Offer of new initiative

On request, JWL can offer in collaboration with Jesuit Institutions and organisations working with the poor affected by COVID-19, within a very short period, the following blended eLearning programmes:

  • Global English Language Programme
  • Professional courses (6 months): Peace Leader, Learning Facilitator, Youth Sports Facilitator, Eco-Tourism, Web Design
  • Academic programmes: Certificate in Liberal Studies, Bachelor in Sustainable Development

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