Thanks to the Erasmus+ programme, I had the opportunity to experience studying abroad. Specifically, I went to Italy for this Erasmus mobility. I would like to take a look around this semester and compare the Czech and Italian education systems in this post.
The fact that I went on Erasmus shortly after the switch from remote to traditional – in-person education made this Erasmus semester even more special. Distance learning brought many challenges and so did certainly the return back to contact learning. These changes were challenging for both students and teachers. Remote learning helped students and teachers learn how to communicate with one another in new ways. By going to an area of Italy that had been badly affected by the pandemic, the covid rules here were stricter. Each student had to have an app, which tracked their attendance on their mobile phone. Which is quite a change from classical paper tracking. The advantage in Italy was that we could attend classes online. It was possible thanks to the new hybrid model of teaching, which brought significant benefits. There was no need to attend the class in person at all. Often students who were studying at another university were enrolled in classes or were joining classes from the comfort of their homes all the time. This flexibility was nice because there were times when it was not possible to attend a full-time class and we were able to use the online version. In the Czech environment, the online connection was only possible for one course.
The return to face-to-face teaching also made online exams possible at both universities, something that no one could have imagined before. The main thing that I perceive that we took away from distance learning is the use of various online tools (e.g. whiteboard, padlet, Kahoot) that can improve the learning experience. I perceive that more teachers and students are using them now. Another interesting remnant of online learning at the Italian school was that the students could project the presentations on their computers as they were connected to a parallel zoom class.
The next advantage of the Italian hybrid system was that the lessons could be recorded and students could replay them. At the Czech university, some courses continued the distance learning tradition of Microsoft Teams, where teachers shared important documents or maintained a fluid conversation with students. In terms of unifying communication channels, the University of Hradec Králové wins here. For the Italian courses, we had a separate moodle for almost every subject, and logging in for exams or otherwise searching for information sometimes seemed a superhuman feat.
If I compare the Italian and Czech education systems in general, I have to say that Italy wins in teacher-student relations. Teachers at the Italian university are a bit more open. We students, who come from different backgrounds, were sometimes surprised by the teacher’s question “how are you today?”. Teachers here allow a moment for a pleasant disposition or sometimes share something more personal. At the same time, they also try to activate distance learners as well. On the other hand, at our Czech university, I can already see progress in this direction. I think that the relationship between teacher and student is crucial to engage the student and foster his motivation and drive for the subject. What I perceive positively about the Czech education system, or to be more specific in my field of study, is there is a more diverse range of tasks. The subjects I chose in Italy were all finished with an exam.
However, I did not experience the credit and the exam system here. Rather, there is the option to be an attending and non-attending student, which means the student can do extra work that will contribute 2 points towards the exam. For one course, the requirements for completion consisted of reading a scholarly article and then presenting it and completing a project and then presenting it (which consisted of finding and reading the top 4 scholarly articles on the topic). Except for one subject, which included a variety of creative tasks, all the extra tasks always entailed reading a professional article and its subsequent presentation.
What I like about the University of Hradec Králové is that each course includes different requirements for credit and the variety of them is more creative. Another interesting experience brought by the Italian system was a completely online course, a MOOC created due to great interest, which included videos and materials. These were gradually revealed week by week. Teachers were in contact with students through a discussion forum and the course ended with a full-time or, in exceptional cases, distance exam. There is a difference between the two systems also in grading. Italian grading is based on a numerical scale of 0-30. When obtaining between 18-30 the student is successful. While in our Czech university the grading is in letters from A to F. In conclusion,
I would like to say that distance learning has shown us that educational support is just as important as feedback from the tutor and we need to be very careful that students receive the same level of support in person and at a distance. I assume that the integration of information technology into education will continue to grow. And maybe one day, online learning will become a regular part of the school curriculum. In my opinion, the one thing that distance education has not yet mastered perfectly is the human interaction that face-to-face instruction has. I still prefer face-to-face learning, but I can see that hybrid learning has many advantages and can improve the overall quality of learning.