Norway: Utilizing digital technologies to offer e-education during the Corona pandemic
The Norwegian educational system, from primary school level to universities, has embraced the digital opportunities to keep learning activities going as the country locked down in March 2020. As educational institutions were closed, digital learning opportunities have accelerated. Teachers and pupils/students were forced to quickly acquire new technological skills, teaching and learning styles.
The Norwegian authorities have acknowledged the use of digital technologies such as e-education as a means to ensure continued access to learning and smooth educational pathways. To support online learning, the Directorate for Education and Training published among other a list of information and resources, and all schools received free access to tools for online teaching. Furthermore, the government launched a grant scheme for local initiatives that aim to support distance education and to develop flexible vocational and adult education. The so-called ‘competency-package’ embraces a total of 190 million NOK for tripartite industry programs: online training, increasing study places at universities’ and colleges and for the training of the unskilled.
Accordingly, the use of digital platforms such as Zoom increased from only a few hundred daily users to an average of 50.000 users and up to 80.000 users on the busiest days. There has been a three- to fourth-fold increase in usage of software and services for streaming and video recordings of lectures in higher education. The log-in portal “Feide” (for sharing data in the educational sector) has doubled the number of users from 1 million to 2 million. Digital exams at campus were transformed to different kinds of (digital) home exams.
The government’s strategy has been to let local authorities handle the contagious outbreaks as far as possible. The government wants to avoid having to close regions where the pandemic is more under control. The educational institutions must themselves consider how to handle the infection control rules, with regard to the content of the education, local building conditions and the need for public transport to the institution. However, this also means that students at different institutions have had quite unequal conditions this year.
Further, there is an increasing focus on the rapid digital transformation of the education system affecting pedagogical aspects of pupils’ and students’ learning process. Norway cancelled written and oral examinations at the end of upper and lower secondary education, prioritising learning time over exam preparation during closures. There is also focus on the social aspects of learning, and the need for pupils and students to meet and interact with their peers and their teachers.
Several larger and smaller research projects have been initiated at institutions of higher education. Further, the Ministry for knowledge has asked NIFU (the Nordic Institute for Studies in innovation, research and education) to conduct a research project on consequences of the changing education sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The project will look at the entire higher education sector and map the situation for both students and academic staff. In addition, organizational matters and administrative staff will be highlighted. Findings and conclusions will be used in future policy for the sector and in the government's general work to learn from and to follow up the consequences of the corona pandemic.
Source: Eurydice Unit Norway