Higher education responded quickly to the coronavirus pandemic, and the majority of the faculties did not take long to switch to remote teaching, which students found interesting. In teaching, various approaches were used, with some lecturers utilizing video-conferencing tools, and others sending audio or regular presentations to students. For subjects in the undergraduate curriculum, for which textbooks are available, such teaching sessions had results and provided students with guidance in their studies.
Online office hours and tutoring have helped in mastering the syllabi. That was the plan, but was it implemented in practice? For the most part – yes. The point is our (lack of) preparedness for remote work. Some exceptions aside, we did not engage in online teaching; rather, we provided emergency remote teaching. Although the methodology of remote learning tool-assisted online teaching has been promoted in Serbia for many years, it has not been widely accepted by university staff. At some faculties and in certain areas, it is popular and based in practice. For the rest of senior and junior university staff, March spelt a period of urgent familiarization with online tools, such as distance learning platforms and video-conferencing systems. Most senior and junior staff found their way around and adapted, which they should be congratulated on, given how demanding and comprehensive the preparations are.
How about the students? There are many students who transition from secondary to higher education without the abilities which are key to successful university study. These oft-missing abilities include effective learning techniques, setting priorities, and rational time allocation. Surrounded by other students in an academic setting, these weaknesses are overcome through regular joint university activities. Some students, left to their own devices in the quarantine, had problems organizing their day and imposing disciplined regular work on themselves. It should be noted that not all students had the same working conditions, suitable internet access or a computer, which some of them had to share with other household members.
In addition to their regular work, all participants in the teaching process had duties related to their immediate family environment. On top of the justified fear of infection, or even the disease itself, all this impeded the implementation of the envisaged goals of remote teaching.
Administering examinations, although organized in the most conscientious manner and with full adherence to the protection measures, is burdened with the fear of infection. This is why university students are allowed to choose whether they take the examinations now or in an additional examination period. What does the autumn have in store for us? In addition to administering examinations, we must provide the conditions necessary for teaching students the skills acquired in face-to-face practice, whether in a lab or out in the field. We need more advanced remote teaching tools. We need to find a solution for reliably administering examinations online. We have achieved a lot in fairly modest conditions, and now we must learn to live and work with corona.