Education in Hard Times: How Masaryk University Staff Have Been Dealing With the Pandemic

Masaryk University students, teachers, and staff have shown great responsibility and solidarity as academic work continues during the pandemic. Brno Daily spoke to staff at the university about the lessons learnt by both students and staff in these unusual times, touching on the depths of students’ determination, new skills acquired by university personnel, and the invincible will to learn. Photo Credit: Freepik / Illustrative Photo.

Brno, Jan 13 (BD) – From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Masaryk University has been among the higher education institutions praised for its quick adaptation to government measures and for the valuable voluntary work of students and teachers in hard times. Brno Daily spoke to a lecturer from the Faculty of Social Studies and a staff member at the Faculty of Arts to bring you insights into the continuing online education, and the silent success of university personnel and students that deserves much appreciation. Masaryk University recently announced that teaching will continue mostly online for the next semester. 

How was the university able to deal with the sudden closure in March 2020? What were the challenges and lessons learned since then?

Lecturer: In my opinion, the university managed to switch to online teaching promptly and without compromising the quality of teaching. Meanwhile, the university has improved its support mainly with technical equipment. When it comes to technical skills and competencies for online teaching and learning, lecturers had to acquire them mostly on a do-it-yourself basis.

Staff member: Our university dealt with the pandemic situation very well. From my point of view, the biggest challenge was to deliver the same quality of work in hard times. The university has been working very hard and is still finding new solutions and ways to function better.

What have been the biggest challenges and/or positive aspects of the pandemic situation from your perspective as someone working at the university?

Lecturer: I really miss face-to-face teaching, I think both my students and myself would enjoy it much more than online. The transfer of knowledge is easier and more effective face-to-face. On the other hand, participation rates in classes are much higher under current circumstances – I guess students join classes so often because they just need one click from their homes, rather than travelling to Brno, going to the faculty, etc. Also, they probably don’t want to miss classes so that their education does not suffer further, and they are very responsible in this respect.

Staff member: The biggest challenge was providing the same quality of work, due to the situation in the Czech Republic and adapting to changes. The most difficult was the fact that we couldn’t meet with students and staff face-to-face. No social contact. It used to be much easier and more effective to work being in direct contact with people. The positive aspect of the situation was that we got a lot of experience that we can use in our work, maybe in our lives. The work for us is the same in many cases, but we are also adapting to changes. 

From your observations, what effects have the pandemic situation and online education had on Czech and international students? Do you think that students faced a lot of problems and difficulties in adapting to the changes and online learning in general, or they were collaborative and adaptable?

Lecturer: From my observations in classes, students are responsible, hardworking, active, and communicative. In the case of international students, I’m afraid they might experience more stress than their Czech fellow students, as being without their families in a foreign country in times of a pandemic is not easy at all. They definitely seem collaborative and adaptable, I really admire them, they are doing so well!

Staff member: The situation had a big effect on students. Many of these students were helping in organizations, hospitals, schools, and they were also preparing for their exams. The foreign students are in the Czech Republic without their families. They couldn’t meet with their friends, they lacked social contact. Of course, in the beginning, it was very hard for students, but they proved strong and determined. I think that they have supported each other, and the teachers have helped them too.

Do you think that online education is better or worse in quality, and will this type of learning have a long-lasting effect on the students’ professional development?

Lecturer: We are sincerely doing our best so that the quality of teaching is not compromised. Online teaching is very time-consuming, it takes me much longer to prepare for an online class in comparison to a face-to-face class. I really hope there won’t be any negative long-lasting effects on students’ education. Nevertheless, I feel sorry for the students for not being able to enjoy the social aspects of university life which are also extremely important and enjoyable, especially if we take into consideration international students who came to study in Brno and have to either spend their studies at a dormitory or even return to their home countries.

Staff member: The teachers are having a hard time preparing the lessons because social contact is not possible. And for the students, this situation can teach them to be more responsible and independent.

Were the government and local authorities helpful and sufficiently communicative?

Lecturer: The university management has translated government regulations in a timely and clear manner and lecturers have always been sufficiently informed about what was going on.

Staff member: My opinion is that communication and help were at a high level. The work was very effective.

Has the pandemic caused any other problems for the university? Or any benefits?

Lecturer: As for the benefits, I think the pandemic has proved that the university and its staff are flexible, adaptable, and responsible, that we take online teaching very seriously, and everyone is working hard to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our students and ourselves.

Staff member: The pandemic situation created many problems in many parts of life all over the world. Masaryk University showed flexibility, responsibility, and effective work. The biggest priority was the quality of study and mutual help in the pandemic times. We need to remember that people can cooperate and help each other.

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