By: Ángela Palacios
São Paulo, Brazil
Technology is a field that has changed the way we see, do and think about various aspects of everyday life, one of which is teaching. This is the case at UNASP (Centro Universitario Adventista de São Paulo), which has expanded its learning experiences thanks to e-learning platforms such as Moodlerooms.
UNASP is a further education establishment that has been in existence for more than 100 years and which has four campuses in São Paulo: São Paulo (central headquarters), Engenheiro Coelho, Hortolandia and Virtual. Each of these offers a range of technical, undergraduate and postgraduate courses and programs.
Its philosophy is based on respect for and the fostering of Adventist beliefs, and covers much broader areas than knowledge itself, such as a spiritual, intellectual, physical and social balance, through faith in God and respect for the dignity of human beings.
The study plan has the transverse objective of promoting academic excellence while not overlooking values, justice and responsibilities. And although it might be thought that these precepts strictly dictate the university’s educational content and its teaching methods, UNASP boasts innovative learning strategies using online tools.
It offers distance courses, a challenge which, according to UNASP’s Virtual Campus Director Valcenir do Vale Costa, encourages them to break away from paradigms that have been established about education in Brazil and in other parts of the world, where the teacher is the main figure in a classroom because he or she is the one who “has the knowledge and knows everything”.
This way of thinking changes with distance education, because attention is focused on the student, who plays a more active and participative role in the content. This has meant that the myth that the quality of the education the student receives is not the same as it is with face-to-face classes has had to be overcome, which has been done by virtue of the significant results that have been achieved since 2005, when distance education was introduced, supported by the Moodlerooms platform.
Technology isn’t going to replace the teacher, but if the teacher doesn’t look for technology, he’s going to be outside the classroom.
This has been a fundamental part of the process, because it is “the communication channel between the institute and the student, quite apart from being where all our material is posted”, explains Valcenir.
Currently, the students can do 20% of their academic load in the online platform. There are approximately 15,000 students on face-to-face courses, who also study various distance programs, and 300 students on postgraduate courses. Additionally, there are low cost courses for anyone who might be interested in a short term experience (10 to 40 hours).
The use of miscellaneous online IT resources for education has opened up new opportunities for learning, cooperation and participation at the university. Brazil is also benefiting greatly from this method, because teaching and education are democratized and hitherto unheard-of things are starting to be done, things that have already become a reality in the field of further education in other countries. It also brought a benefit in terms of time, because distances are great in São Paulo and when a person has to travel from home to work and from work to university, and vice-versa, getting around can sometimes become complicated, whereas with distance education, schedules can be arranged better.
The teaching staff felt somewhat reluctant when a start was made on implementing the project at UNASP, because they thought it was something very new and they weren’t clear what they would be up against. However, as online classes developed, their perception changed radically. Three key elements began to come together: having, mastering and making proper, ideal and harmonious use of online tools.
Each teacher is trained and is constantly learning and getting to know the applications and other digital matters, because “technology isn’t going to replace the teacher, but if the teacher doesn’t look for technology, he’s going to be outside the classroom”, maintains Valcenir.
Every effort is therefore being constantly made to train and motivate the teaching staff and ensure that they are fully aware of and understand the possibilities that technology offers in terms of valuable results and products in teaching processes.
Where is UNASP at in comparison with other institutes?
There is great diversity in the field of education in Brazil, and many universities had already introduced online education by the time UNASP made the decision to do so. It has taken full advantage of this, since it has learned from the processes used by other colleges and has thus been able to improve its own and ensure quality in its programs.
*Valcenir do Vale Costa, Virtual Campus Director, Centro Universitario Adventista de São Paulo
*Photo by: AFP Miguel Schincariol