IBC-M T2P: IBC-M College held an online conference dedicated to raising the quality of distance learning during the corona virus epidemic

 IBC-M T2P Center, within the implementation of the KFOS supported project, named Coalition for Higher Education Quality Assurance (CHEQA), IBC-M has brought together  a well-known European and Education expert Claire Gordon from London School of Economics (LSE), Anke Rigbers, Chief Executive from EVALAG Accreditation Agency, Minister of Education Ms. Hykmete Bajrami, Ms. Mihone Kerolli IBC-M College Director, Mr. Stergios Tragoudas, EU Office in Kosovo, Mr. Shkelzen Gerxhaliu, Kosovo Accreditation Agency, Mr. Marjan Dema, Rector of University of Prishtina and Jelena Djokic, IBC-M Academic Director to discuss one of the most actual topics in the academic levels these days: Quality of distance learning at the coronavirus time.

While the whole world, including Kosovo, is embroiled in a battle against coronavirus, the vital activities of any society, such as education in Kosovo, are developing new work formats – such as distance learning – to break the blockade, fulfill its mission and enable students to continue the academic process. These were some of the main conclusions from the on-line conference, organized by the International College of Business in Mitrovica (IBC-M) which was attended by the Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mrs. Hykmete Bajrami, Representative of the EU Office in Kosovo Mr. Stergios Stragoudas, international and local experts in the field prof. Claire Gordon from the London School of Economics, Rector of the University of Prishtina Prof. Marjan Dema, Executive Director of the German Accreditation Agency EVALAG Dr. Anke Rigbergs, representative of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency Mr. Shkëlzen Gerxhaliu and the director of IBC-M college Prof. Mihone Kerolli Mustafa and academic director prof. Jelena Djokic.

Due to the crisis caused by the corona virus, from March 15, academic institutions in Kosovo have moved from the traditional format of teaching to that of distance learning (on-line), which has brought with it a completely different methodology of teaching, acquisition of knowledge and interaction between students and their professors. The Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mrs. Hykmete Bajrami, has admitted that “the outbreak of the crisis with the corona virus has completely changed the previous agenda of the ministry”. “The crisis has also changed our intentions, compared to the initial ones” she said, adding that higher education institutions have reacted quickly and have done a good job of moving from traditional to distance learning, in keeping up with their important mission. “We are receiving reports on the high involvement of students and professors in the on-line teaching system. Now, the main and biggest challenge for all members of the academic community is to ensure quality within the new work system” she said, stressing the importance of the Coalition for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CHEQA), led by IBC-M and under the auspices of which this conference was held.

IBC-M College Director, Mihone Kerolli Mustafa, said that the transition to the distance learning system was an emergency response to the threat by the blockade of the academic process. IBC-M is one of the higher education institutions that since 2010 has started the application of on-line education, especially with the double programs offered by the college. “As a society, I think we were not prepared in advance to apply distance learning as the main form of work in the educational process” she said, adding that her college has reacted quickly and launched an on-line teaching system. She emphasized that fulfilling the mission of the higher education system means unifying the standards and model of distance learning, as well as redesigning the curricula for traditional teaching in distance learning, which would enable “an effective process in the quality assurance of the educational service for all students”.

Stergios Tragoudas from the EU Office in Kosovo, congratulated the Ministry, IBCM and other educational institutions in Kosovo “for the quick response to the transition to the on-line learning system”. “This can serve as an example,” he said, adding that the EU would not allow any disruption to the projects it supports in Kosovo due to the current situation.

Claire Gordon, professor from London School of Economics and one of the most prominent European experts in the field of on-line education, said that distance learning, once applied, should ensure the “qualitative continuity of education” and the development of knowledge and skills that students need for their future. ”

According to her, the main objectives of the distance learning system are: ensuring student progress, equal introduction of classical teaching and research on on-line learning curricula, as well as determining the forms and models of work that would ensure that students are active during distance learning in the same way as they are in the traditional system.

“The distance learning system must be flexible because it must not be forgotten that during online learning students will be lonely, will not be part of the academic community itself and will not be able to have an active life in communication with colleagues, professors and their institutions, which in them can add to the stress already present by the crisis that has caused the launch of distance learning, “she said.

Rector of the University of Prishtina, Prof. Marjan Dema, presented the challenges and the achievements of the University in the application of online system during the pandemic.  “The University with all its capacities has successfully responded to the application of distance learning system. It has engaged over 300 volunteers from the university who are giving their contribution to the advancement of on-line platforms, providing various services, authorial writings, consultancy. UP has also launched the website of mental health, which provides psycho-educational video recordings on mental health and its maintenance during COVID-19 pandemic. The university has also put in place human and material resources, to help institutions and the community, with the mission of overcoming the situation created as soon as possible and with fewer consequences” he said. According to him, the experts and students are providing laboratory assistance to serve the common interest for the protection of public health. In addition, he said that the exit strategy is being prepared in order to exit from the created situation.

The executive director of the German Accreditation Agency (EVALAG), Dr. Anke Rigbergs, highlighted the operating procedures and application criteria on the required European standards for the accreditation of on-line programs and the steps taken by the agency in identifying experts in the field of curriculum design for on-line programs. She stressed that the rapid transition around the world from the traditional system to the on-line one presents new challenges for accreditation agencies and the application of standards that ensure the quality of this form of application.

Representative of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency, Shkelzen Gërxhaliu presented the challenges of the agency in operation during this pandemic time. He presented as a need the development of standards for distance learning and effective models that would increase the quality of these formats. The Kosovo Accreditation Agency is currently looking at the possibility of evaluating applications for institutional accreditation of higher education institutions and selecting international experts who will participate in the evaluation of on-line programs, if the epidemic situation continues.

Academic Director at IBC-M, prof. Jelena Djokic said that with regards to the extremely great challenge of job evaluation and student assessment, her college has had in place for some time now the special system for the promotion of students for a long time thanks to the double diplomas that this college issues with international partners in Denmark and Lithuania.

Conference participants finally agreed that the design of an adequate and unique system for quality assurance of distance learning is essential to ensure quality teaching, successful completion of the next academic year, as well as to fulfill the missions and objectives of higher education institutions and the programs they offer.

IBCM College will continue with other discussion forums, involving higher education institutions and other stakeholders in Kosovo, to highlight and evaluate key indicators for the implementation of distance learning practices, as well as providing a discussion platform toward advancing quality in education.

You can listen to the full video conference at the link: