In 2020 Ljudska univerza Rogaška Slatina, as all other educational institutions around the world, was faced with a completely new and unique situation when the pandemic started. As a result, all educational programs at the organization were stopped and employees were faced with a big challenge of how to go on and continue the educational process in all programs. At the beginning, our main goal was to at least stay in touch with our learners for which we used e-mails and regular post and were regularly sending them learning material and encouraged them to do some self-studying at home. Soon afterwards some of our lecturers started doing some online lessons, using Skype and Jitsi Meet applications, although there were quite many troubles with internet connection and the performance of both applications. Somehow we managed to finish the school year more or less successfully.
So when the summer started, we did not rest. We knew that there is a big possibility we will have to continue with this kind of education when the next school year begins in autumn. We were lucky enough that we received a free of charge access to several online teaching applications, such as Zoom, Microsoft teams and Moodle, from our Ministry for Education, Science and Sport. We used the summer time for training our lecturers in how to use these applications for distance learning. Our ICT expert organized several trainings for them and taught them how to use Zoom and Microsoft teams. At the beginning of the school year, when our learners came back, we also organized several trainings for those learners who needed gaining additional skills in using these tools.
So when the new school year began, we started online lessons for our formal vocational programs using the combination of Zoom online lectures and individual work in Microsoft Teams. We were quite surprised by the feedbacks coming from our learners in vocational programs, because they accepted the online learning in a very positive manner. They expressed a big satisfaction with this form of learning, because it saved them a lot of time and money, because they did not have to drive to their lessons. At the same time, the success in the final exams was not any worse as in previous years.
Naturally, it was a bit different in other, non-formal programs. The biggest problems occurred in some national projects, since the ministries in charge of certain projects did not allow some of the projects to continue in online form, so they had to be stopped completely for a certain amount of time, which caused some delays in carrying out certain activities and in reaching the set indicators. Such programs were programs with the Employment centre, where we are running a program for social activation of long-term unemployed people. We had to wait to continue this program until we were allowed to carry out face-to-face activities again, which was a big shame, since they are the population that needs these kind of activities and social inclusion the most. The situation was very similar with our programs for Slovenian language for foreigners.
Another category of learners that was at the biggest risk of being excluded was the big group of our members of the University for Third Age Rogaška Slatina. Since they are elderly people over 65, many of them did not have any ICT skills to continue their activities in online form, so we tried to keep contact with them through sending them telephone messages and learning material with answers through regular post. We were able to organize some Zoom lessons for members of English, German and Italian courses, as well as Yoga practices and computer courses, but there is still a big number of seniors that are not taking part in these online activities. Another problem occurred when we were allowed to have face-to-face activities again, because these elderly members, being a high risk group, were naturally too afraid to come back to classes.
A big change also occurred in the area of our international projects, since all the transnational project meetings and trainings were moved to online form. We believe this is a temporary solution, but we really miss face-to-face meetings, which give you more opportunity to share experience, examples of good practices and to get to know different cultures.
So now in the year of 2021 we have to do many adjustments from one week to another, according with the rules that come out every week. We continue to have all of our vocational programs in online form and in other programs we are making different combinations using online applications and face-to-face activities, depending on the current situation with Covid-19. At the moment of writing this article, Ljudska univerza Rogaška Slatina is closed down due to the total lock-down, but next week our doors will be open to the public again and some activities will begin in face-to-face form again. For how long, nobody knows, but let us hope for the best.