Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) has moved to distance learning from the second half of March amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The TSU Quality Assurance Service has conducted a survey on introducing distance learning and administration, analyzing its positive and negative aspects and promoting the sides involved. Students of all seven faculties of TSU, academic, central and faculty administrative staff participated in the survey.
According to the survey results, Zoom platform has been used most frequently for video/audio conferencing and learning purposes. 61% of surveyed professors noted that more than 75% of students are attending the lecturers. 94% of academics said that more than 70% of educational materials designed for the learning course are available to students.
The academic staff uses individual approach in respect of those students who face specific problems in terms of access to the Internet and electronic devices. Professors personally provide separate slides, voice files and other educational materials to such students.
The academic staff gives positive evaluation to the effectiveness of online learning, stressing the importance of TSU support, as well as the role video instructions and tutorials play in this process. 97% of interviewed professors noted that TSU has provided them with video instructions, tutorials and guidelines about online learning. The survey has revealed the need for additional training courses on the methods of online learning and holding written exams.
According to the survey, 53% of students have full access to the Internet and electronic devices; 42% - give an answer “more or less” and 5% - “no”. As for attending an online lecture, most students (36%) note 100% attendance. Most students (88%) noted that they received relevant information from TSU about the use of online platforms. Furthermore, the majority of interviewed students suppose that professors effectively lead online lectures and seminars.
A part of students speak of replacing intermediate exams by other forms of evaluation (presentations, essays, casus), reducing a threshold and abolishing a component of attendance score. The other group focuses on the difficulties in oral testing, emphasizing the need for replacing it by home tasks or online quizzes. A part of students draws special attention to specific difficulties related to certain courses. Naturally, mostly those students are highlighting this problem whose studies involve a practical, laboratory component.
Students are satisfied with adaptation and efforts made by TSU administration and academics. Some students even stress long-term positive outcomes of such developments, focusing on the importance of maintaining the components of distance learning in the post-pandemic period.
87% of administrative and auxiliary staff considers that it is possible to perform duties remotely. They stress the support received from the University for doing their work effectively. 89% of respondents are equipped with all technical means necessary for working remotely. E-mail was named most frequently among the platforms used in the process of working remotely. Almost equally are used social networks, Zoom and eDocument; other systems were also named.
Part of respondents stressed the need for more communication to increase the effectiveness of remote working. The other part focuses on drawing up a working plan and timeframes. It is worth noting that most respondents also name the need for improving their computer skills. The need for smooth functioning of the Learning Management System (LMS) software was also emphasized.
Based on the survey, it was decided to take the academic staff’s wish into consideration and hold a training course on online learning, as well as to constantly inform students, administrative and auxiliary staff about technical or other novelties. A series of trainings has already been held. As a result of negotiations with foreign colleagues, three more trainings will be held in May that will promote better management of the learning process.