Distance education in Poland during the pandemic has been marred by issues such as lack of equipment, digital skills of teachers, and support from local and central administration. Teachers were largely alone and unprepared for the need to move quickly into distance learning. They learned to use communicators, to offer materials and teaching aids to students and to implement the program, they learned continuously, in a living organism.
E-learning – a great experience
A study by experts from the Faculty of Education at the University of Warsaw showed that in 2020 the daily life of distance education was overloaded with, among other things, problems such as lack of equipment – laptops, tablets or good internet connections. Teachers and students have also struggled with the lack of tools for distance learning. The main part of the implementation of the program was carried out thanks to the determination of the teaching staff and self-training, as well as the self-organization of work.
Research from the University of Warsaw shows that 31 percent. teachers in Poland used commercial webinars and online communication tools to deliver online lessons, such as MS Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or Messenger (Facebook). In contrast, 19 percent. sent its students classic paper to-do lists in paper textbooks, without adapting the curriculum at all for distance learning. Up to 41 percent. teachers delivered lessons remotely in accordance with the pre-COVID-19 pandemic lesson schedule, and an individual schedule was implemented by 25%. educators. 6 percent of teaching staff have used educational platforms for schools and students.
However, a much more interesting question is the verification of knowledge acquired online. 24 percent teachers did this during the pandemic by observing student activity in the classroom, 21 percent. – through online missions, 16% implemented exercises and interactive quizzes, and 10%. decided to ask students to complete projects on their own.
Distance learning failed the exam – is it really bad?
From a study conducted by the University of Warsaw and the experiences shared by many students, parents and teachers during the pandemic, a rather boring picture of distance education in Poland emerges.
But let’s think for a moment – like the racial defenders of the devil – is this really as unfavorable as it sounds? If we take into account, for example, the issue of student privacy – not necessarily. Let’s take a look at the many issues distance learning has created with respect to privacy and personal data protection in other countries.
Technology at the service of integrity
During the coronavirus pandemic, distance education has grown not only in Poland, but also around the world. The United States is a country where schoolchildren and students have often not been so lucky as their peers in Poland – in the service of honesty in distance education, new technologies have been used. track the movements of the eyeball on the screen during the test – all so that you can easily find out who downloaded and cheated on tests and tests, and who did not.
Browser extensions, facial recognition programs based on artificial intelligence and, ultimately, startups offering solutions suitable for even the small needs of small schools – all of this in distance education has its niche and has been used for everything. According to the New York Times, it is not new in the United States that the education sector at some point began to use the same methods of student surveillance that law enforcement uses in their work.
The mapping of eyeball movements described earlier is not all. Keyloggers that record everything the student types on the computer keyboard, as well as computer audio and video recording programs, as well as recording everything that can be seen on his or her screen, are distinguished by frequent use.
A market worth millions of dollars
According to a New York daily, the market for software and companies offering solutions to prevent distance education fraud during the pandemic has become a multi-million dollar industry.
Companies providing this type of product include ExamSoft, ProctorU and Proctorio among others – these companies have however been met with a very negative attitude from the media, privacy activists and even – with the interest of senators American Democrats.
In addition, the students themselves began to feel frustrated with the tracking of their software, the primary use of which was to ensure fairness in home tests and tests. As they claimed, the artificial intelligence algorithms used in some systems did not judge honestly, accusing various people of fraud on the basis of recordings of several tens of seconds, on which someone, for example, for a moment hijacked the screen face to look out the window. Algorithms are also expected to err in assessing the integrity of students, based on the appearance of their faces, the diversity of which creates major problems for systems.
Discrimination at distance school
In the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) report, published in May 2022, it is noted that in recent years schools and universities around the world have implemented many solutions that use electronic supervision tools and are based, among other things, on predictive behavioral analysis. Those who are detected as suspicious activate the mechanism of sanction or verification of the situation by the teacher and can have a negative impact, among others, on students with disabilities or people with skin color other than white.
“Automated surveillance tools torpedo students’ privacy, dignity, and basic civil rights,” the CDT report said.
The study distinguishes, among other things, remote tools to verify the integrity of the resolution tests, which can run, for example, on the student’s computer or use a camera integrated into the laptop. In the case of testing tools based on artificial intelligence, the CDT points out that a particular problem in the proper functioning, and therefore – negative effects for the people who are subjected to them – they have in the case of people with disabilities who may, for example, have an atypical face and falsely activate the seizure response algorithm, which will flag many of their gestures as invalid.
Many online learning platforms offer automatic grading of student online submissions. According to CDT, the automated grading system can be very harmful to students with disabilities. The survey conducted by this organization indicated that about 71 percent. of teachers working with children with special educational needs believe that algorithmic assessments can be plagued with errors in the algorithm and increase inequalities between students without disabilities and students with disabilities.
During the pandemic, the US Department of Education issued a recommendation that tests and exams should be conducted remotely whenever possible, similar to state exams in high schools. However, education experts point out that this recommendation was not accompanied by any guidelines, including recommendations for risk management in the event of exam fraud.
On the website for the education industry in the United States – 74 million – we read that, taking advantage of the lack of guidelines, many schools very quickly implemented the systems described previously for the remote monitoring of integrity in testing.
One of the companies providing such software – Proctorio – in an interview with The New York Times informed that its business during the coronavirus pandemic increased by 900%.
Teacher dead and no contact
Besides monitoring, another problem with remote learning is the lack of real contact with educators.
The media in the United States describes – anecdotally – the case of a teenager from Florida who, one day last year, decided to contact the teacher responsible for carrying out one of her subjects through pre-recorded lectures. When she emailed the educator, she was surprised to find he was dead – and had been for almost two years.
For many students, teachers are too far reaching to make creative contact with them – this is limited to asking students for a list of educational videos to watch on YouTube and reading excerpts from books.
The same goes for the peer group – although the students know their first and last names, they don’t really know themselves – constantly see each other in “class” via Zoom or other video calling software.
The lack of interaction with teachers and students can be even more acute in the case of exams, which, apart from the teacher, will today be strictly evaluated by artificial intelligence.
Perhaps, however, it is not always worth preferring hyper-honesty and reliability to the classically understood master-student relationship, which was quite rare at school …?
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