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“Now we have time to evaluate what we are doing”: Norwegian partner school experiences from Covid-19 spring

In mid-May, we talked with Trond Remme who works as a student counsellor and international coordinator at the Voss Vidaregåande Skule (VGS) in Norway. Distance-learning had worked out surprisingly well in Norway; but would distance collaboration be possible also for international learning purposes in the future?

Vossvgs3

The new main building of Voss Vidaregåande Skule.

Voss is a small, beautiful town in the middle of mountains, just one hour from Bergen by train. The collaboration between Luksia and Voss VGS is now on its second year, mainly focusing on vehicle mechanics mobilities so far. A short presentation film of Voss VGS is available on their Facebook page.

On 12 March, schools closed in Norway. At the time, four Norwegian vehicle mechanic students were in Lohja, and had just started their Erasmus+ mobility period 10 days earlier. They had to return back to Norway with less than 24 hours time to pack and finish their work.

Although it was a pity to leave Finland after such a great start in their workplaces, it was Trond’s responsibility as the international coordinator to bring the students home. “36 students were abroad, and 10 of them were in Denmark when the country locked down,” Trond tells.

Surprising success of distance-learning

Closing schools meant distance-teaching also for vocational colleges. According to Trond, learning this spring has been more successful than anyone would have thought in advance. “Most students have actually done what they should: it is fantastic, and I am very surprised!” Trond says.

Trond also works as a student counsellor in his school. At the beginning of distance-teaching, he notified teachers about those students with special needs who might require extra support for distance studies. Many of these students have managed really well, but some have been hard to reach. If the student has dropped out of the school radar and does not respond, the teacher has been contacting the parents to check the situation. In some cases, the student has been required to come to school 1-2 days per week, to make sure that their studies keep on advancing.

Distance-teaching has meant more homework both for the student and the teacher. Especially at the beginning, the teacher kept on checking constantly if the students had done what they were supposed to. However, after the first two weeks, teachers wanted to make learning easier both for the student and the teacher, and started to compile weekly schedules for their class. This way the student had an overall plan of what will happen on each day of the week.

“Some students have really benefited when they have been able to learn when they want. Maybe they have been tired in the morning, but now they have been able to study in the afternoon,” Trond says.

Voss VGS has mainly used Microsoft tools, but also Google Meet and their online learning platform It’s Learning for managing the distance studies.

Norja Trond

From left to right: Luksia’s vehicle mechanic teachers Sami Hagelberg, Jari Salo, and Voss VGS international coordinator Trond Remme. Voss, March 2019. Photo: Riikka Suhonen

 

More online cooperation

Trond has ideas for the future of international cooperation. “Now we have time to evaluate what we are doing,” he says.

Online cooperation between Norway and Finland is a possibility, for example on topics such as democracy, sustainable development, English, or other common subjects. Cook teachers have also a lot of different technical equipment such as cameras, making cookery another possible field of collaboration.

Other areas to explore together in the future could be eg. robots & CNC. Trond is particularly hoping to develop more staff mobilities for our teachers to learn from each other also pedagogically.

To communicate better our international work with companies, Trond had a good tip: giving out an Erasmus+ certificate for the local companies who receive Erasmus+ students from abroad. The company can place the certificate on their wall, and this way show their support and raise awareness on Erasmus+ for their clients and staff.

Trond has also thought of taking a local journalist with him when sending students abroad, or when receiving foreign students in the local company. “I see the growth of the student when they have been abroad, and also how the local companies benefit when receiving international students, by learning more English, and about other European countries,” Trond tells. This personal and organisational growth should also be visible to a larger public: this we both could not agree more on.

 

Read the other blog posts in this series:

“Finnish people are extrovert, and Finland is not boring at all”: being an Erasmus+ student in Helsinki during the Covid-19 pandemic

The spring when everything changed: Experiences from a Dutch vocational college

International work between Luksia and Bromangymnasiet: Unchartered waters ahead - sustainability is crucial

“We will come out reinforced”: Interview with Luksia’s partner school in the Basque Country

Not only health, but a learning crisis: time for solidarity and cooperation, French VET college says