In Moldova, as in many places across the world, education was amongst the first sector hit by the COVID-19 crisis in ways no one could have imagined. As distance learning became the new normal, schools, kindergartens and universities were quickly forced to explore remote learning platforms.
Yet the education sector (like many others) was unprepared to embrace this shift with such short notice. The process revealed hidden challenges which up to that point had been overlooked.
One such challenge is the low rates of internet literacy in the country. Though the use of Internet has been on the rise in Moldova for the last couple of years, many citizens – including teachers – do not have the technical skills required to figure out how to download, install and use tools needed for remote learning.
Complicating matters further was that Moldova planned to offer two types of learning: synchronous and asynchronous. With synchronous learning, users can receive immediate feedback through instant messaging (Zoom, Skype Google+ Hangout) whereas the latter provides for an individual, self-paced learning experience (file transfer, email, blogs, on-line courses). Without a centralized plan for remote learning, teachers were given freedom to choose the format they wished to implement, which made things chaotic for students and parents, who had to install a number of different software depending on the lesson and teacher.
Teachers struggled with collecting homework and reviewing progress through such decentralized platforms. They used individual chats to share the content, which made the process even more confusing for all involved. At the same time, they were required to report daily on the wellbeing of their students, which turned out to be a heavy administrative task as they needed to write each person individually.
In 2018, UNDP Moldova helped create an e-learning platform studii.md, in partnership with Tekwill and developed by Simpals. At the time, UNDP’s goal was to set up a system that helped parents track the performance of their children through a centralized platform. The platform had all the standard functions – displaying grades, homework, comments by teachers - and could hold the online schedule for up to a year. It also provided statistics on the progress and absences of each student for any period of time. Teachers could use the data to generate statistical and graphic reports on the students.