The declared state of emergency and the measurements that were imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic resulted in higher education institutions facing several challenges. The implementation of the distance education required the cooperation of all the University’s staff and organizational units. SZTE performed well during the semester.
The preparation time that the University of Szeged had between ordering the distance education and actually launching it was very short. The situation was further more difficult due to the fact that the University had to provide the necessary IT support and tools for all of its departments. During the extraordinary period of the distance education, the primary goal of the SZTE was to enable more than twenty thousand students to successfully complete the semester. In order to achieve this goal, the 12 faculties of the University developed an action-plan whereas, instructors were interactively supporting the students in acquiring the necessary knowledge and education continued with the help of several online tools.
Development of the online tools
In the new situation, it was a huge advantage for the University of Szeged that it has been developing the framework of digitally supported education in some of its courses for more than ten years. The CooSpace framework supports educational collaboration and the process of learning, while Modulo supports the electronic administration. Due to the size and complexity of the task and the tight deadlines, the management of the University of Szeged, the senior managers and operational managers responsible for the field of education decided that SZTE basically relies on existing IT foundations, systems and good practices during the period of the online education. Creating distance education in line with operational programs for IT developments.
Online communication and online exams
CooSpace platform makes it possible to organize online consulting hours, which similar to video chat, uses the system's internal resources and also provides personal online communication. In addition to the time and duration of the consulting hours, the number of potential applicants can be specified by the instructor. Students can consult the instructor via video chat in the order in which they apply. This feature not only allows consulting hours but also the online oral exam to be held, as it ensures the queuing of the candidates, manages the number of candidates for the exam and allows personal online communication between the candidate and the examiner.
Online tools in education
Recently CooSpace was upgraded with multiple modules and functions which help e-learning as well as online communications and working. Users of CooSpace can initiate video calls with each other freely, outside of courses. The integrated BBB (Big Blue Button) function helps lecturers in holding online seminars, where attendees can join the assigned platform at the same time as the lecturer. The entire seminar can be recorded, and in case of livestreaming needs, the services of YouTube are accessible via CooSpace. In this case the CooSpace scene forwards the link of the event to each participant, and later the recorded video can be watched again through YouTube.
It is possible to link e-learning materials to accompany to courses. Besides text and picture content, test questions and multimedia elements can also be inserted. The system can import PowerPoint presentations, and it is able to disseminate read-only versions. The educator can add oral explanation to the written material or use the existing standard (SCORM) materials.
CooSpace converts the uploaded videos and make them available as video streams. The educators can record lectures with their phones and upload them to the system. From then on the recorded video is accessible and can be watched again any time without downloading it.
The University of Szeged responded with the above mentioned services and improvements to the challenges caused by the emergency. All experiences and feedback received from staff and students during the distance learning served as great bases for the upcoming developments in the next years. Even after the pandemic, distance learning will still provide opportunities which will help to increase the quality of education and extensive dissemination of knowledge.
CooSpace development: BigBlueButton
The video conference rooms set up at the University of Szeged József Attila Study and Information Centre proved a great help in getting through the exam period, as well as in holding the final exams.
In addition, CooSpace developers have migrated the Big Blue Button (BBB) open source web conferencing system, which can run in a cloud system environment and supports multiple audio and video sharing. It also expands online presentations with whiteboard options such as pointer, zoom, and drawing. It is possible to present public and private conversations, desktop sharing and presenting PDF documents and Microsoft Office documents.
Unique opportunity for members of the University of Szeged: Coursera for SZTE
The University of Szeged was the first institution in the European region that took a great step towards online education. Through an agreement signed with Coursera, the world’s largest online education platform, the members of the university can take part in courses provided by the world’s best institutions free of charge. More than 4 thousand online courses are available on the platform.
Digital education – in numbers
2 169 574 study materials with 2 942 GB of size*
366 623 CooSpace logins
68 090 submitted assignments
121 068 uploaded documents with 358GB of size
* Recorded period: 22-24. May 2020
Highest number of daily logins in the first semester: 68 277, in the second semester: 102 760
445 393 CooSpace login*
178 319 hours spent within the system
6 948 students took 10 990 examinations in 932 different exam times
37 431 tests filled
423 video chat calls
* Recorded period: 18-24. May 2020