Should be compulsory e-learning in school

Corona: German schools are poorly prepared for e-learning

Niklas is 14 years old and is in the 9th grade of a Berlin high school. Since March 17th, the usual lessons have not taken place at his school either. Instead, they should now work at home. The boys and girls need a computer and internet connection for this. It was taken for granted that there are both.

Learning only at home

The school provided an email address and password for the Office 365 Education program, which Microsoft provides free of charge to schools. You should download this from the Internet onto your computer and log in there. "For many, it didn't work at all to register on the first day," says Niklas. "Everything had to be set up in the last few days, but many of them didn't manage it technically either." Because not every student has the appropriate equipment at home.

The Estonians can do it, and so can the Dutch

The pedagogue Julia Hense, who deals with the topics of digitization and learning at the Essen mmb Institute, is not surprised at the problems. In Europe, Germany is the worst prepared for the e-learning that is now necessary. "There are of course efforts to make up for it now, but they will not work in the short term because we are not as well positioned in Germany as countries like Estonia or Finland or Sweden and so on," says Hense with reference to a study by the CEPS, the Center for European Policy Studies.

In addition to the lack of hardware, the Internet connections are too weak or unstable in many places and, above all, the teachers are not adequately trained. "At our school, most of the teachers have absolutely no idea about technology," confirms 16-year-old Karl, who is in the 10th grade of a Berlin high school. "They're happy when a student plugs an HDMI cable into a laptop for them because they just don't know how it works." He couldn't imagine how his teachers would teach their students online.

If you don't have a printer, you have a problem

After the first few days at home, it looks like proper lessons are not planned. Niklas and Karl receive worksheets by email. The 14-year-old via the Office platform, the 16-year-old via a website that, as he says, a math teacher set up "as a last-minute action". "At our school, they don't even know that Microsoft is making programs available to schools. When I asked about it a few months ago, I was told it didn't exist."

Worksheets for download and printing

The students should print out the worksheets at home and work through them. What is required is to repeat and consolidate what was already learned before the outbreak of the Corona crisis. One of Niklas' teachers wrote that she would not want to introduce new topics. How should that work? Via video chat? With teachers producing tutorials and passing them on to their students? "The huge wave that you pushed about the fact that all of the lessons are now being pushed onto this online site has not come true at all. It doesn't work," complains Karl.

Much will be missed

The students can already see where this will lead. "I guess there will be some material that will pass us by and we will not be able to catch up completely," says Niklas. "The question is also how to do that with the certificate and the grades for this semester. I am very happy that it is happening to me now at a time when it is not so important to me because I have not yet completed a secondary school diploma or do my Abitur. "

Repeat and consolidate - there shouldn't be any new learning content so quickly

It looks different with Karl. In Berlin, all tenth graders have to take a middle school leaving certificate. It consists of a 30-minute presentation test and written class tests, which have been moved from April to May. At the moment, no one can say whether they will take place or will be postponed further.

German teachers work in the same way

Karl thinks about how the preparation for these exams should work. Only with worksheets? It is not even necessary to scan the completed sheets and send them to the teachers for correction. "Schools should have thought much more about options like e-learning. Schools in other countries can do that too," criticized the 16-year-old.

German classrooms are still largely furnished in the same way

In Germany, teachers would stick to the analog system because they could do it and so far no one had asked them to do anything else. "They were never prepared for such a scenario." Julia Hense sees it the same way. And thinks about how the students should learn something in the next few months. "It's just not enough when I say: Here is your package of tasks. You download this and then it's good. It's better than nothing. But of course it's actually not what we want."

Things are going best in Estonia

Estonia, the European leader in e-learning, shows how it can work instead. Schools there began working digitally as early as the 1990s. The entire school management now runs on digital platforms - whether homework, grading or teaching materials that are stored centrally for all teachers in the country. Parents can see how their child is developing in school, what he is learning. You will be notified if the child skips and you will also report there if your child is sick.

In Estonia, children are digitally educated at an early age

The Berlin high school that Niklas is attending wants to set up the Teams program in the next few days. The 14-year-old hopes that the chat and video functions of the program will then also be used. But does that work with 30 participants? And do all students have the essential, good internet connection at home?

Make the most of it - and learn for the future

"It would be overwhelming to expect teachers to become absolute experts in digital learning within 24 hours," says scientist Hense, protecting the teachers. "This is now an unbelievable turning point for all of us, really in every respect. I think it just shows again where there is a crunch in the system."

For the spread of digital learning, the crisis is also an "absolute opportunity" and a "total booster", analyzes educator Hense. A lot will certainly change in the future. "There are many advantages to digitizing learning processes and then being able to act in a very decentralized manner - and in case of doubt, also to teach completely decentrally".