Heidi Huusgaard, a Community Story from Denmark (from Epale)

My name is Heidi Huusgaard. I am 40 years old. I have an MA in English and History. For the last six years, I have been teaching at VUC Storstrøm in Næstved (Zealand, Denmark).

As an important and inspiring part of my job at VUC Storstrøm, I have participated in several Erasmus+-projects, during which I learned a lot about EPALE and the sharing of knowledge that goes on there. Of particular interest to me, is the sharing of best practice across Europe, and the fact, that it is always possible to find inspiration on EPALE.

When Covid-19 hit our educational institution, we were probably better off than most. We have been working with collaborative tools and even online teaching through our Global Classroom, where the students are able to stay at home, and take part in the teaching via video conference. Nevertheless, Covid-19 has intensified some of the educational elements we worked with.

We received the message to start online emergency teaching on the evening of Wednesday March 11.

Luckily, that same day, by request from management, we had tested MS Teams in our teaching. In light of the Covid-19 situation, we had already discussed different strategies, if we were to be sent home. Therefore, I simply wrote to my students, that Thursday’s teaching would be on Teams. Thursday morning, I sent out an assignment to the students, and then I wrote to them that we could communicate about it on Teams throughout the morning. That day, we got to test some of the different functionalities in Teams and managed to get through the lessons.

Fortunately, the students are really kind, positive and cooperative, so within the first week, we had a good time together.

It would probably have been easy to simply put up some assignments every day, and be available for questions, but it quickly dawned on me, that effective and motivating digital teaching has to resemble analogue/physical teaching as much as possible. It cannot be distance learning. Office365 provides unique possibilities to create a collaborative, digital classroom that resembles the analogue classroom of everyday life in many respects. During the last two months, in cooperation with the students, I have found a model that works quite well.
We always start with an overall conference for all students, where absentees are recorded and the plan for the day is presented. After that, the lessons progress more or less in the same way as they would have done in the physical classroom. Teacher presentations, work in pairs, group work, individual work, student presentations, class discussions, etc. All based on Teams and OneNote class notebooks.
This form of teaching demands some extra attention from both the teacher and the students. It can be difficult to encourage students who are unmotivated to participate in the teaching. They hide easily behind a turned-off camera or various IT-related issues, some genuine others not so. The computers, internet connections, as well as the basic IT competences of each student play an important role in making the teaching work.

The teacher has to adapt his or her classroom management to the new framework.

The experiences that both my students and I have had will, I think, give rise to a possibility to make the teaching even more flexible in times to come, because physical and virtual attendance can work simultaneously. In addition, these experiences can strengthen the work we have already begun on videoconference-based teaching in the form of Global Classroom.