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Challenges and Opportunities Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic” – The role of Hack4Society Project

Distance learning, also known as online or remote learning, has become a widely used method of education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This method of learning involves using technology to communicate and receive instruction from teachers and classmates remotely. The Vocational Education and Training (VET) educational system, which focuses on providing students with hands-on, practical skills for specific careers, has also been impacted by the shift to distance learning.

One benefit of distance learning in the VET system is that it allows students to continue their education and training while adhering to social distancing guidelines. This is particularly important for students in fields such as healthcare and construction, where hands-on training is essential but in-person instruction may not be feasible during a pandemic. Additionally, distance learning can be more accessible for students who may have difficulty attending in-person classes due to physical or financial constraints. However, there are also negative points to consider when it comes to distance learning in the VET system. One major issue is that students may not have access to the same resources and equipment they would have in a traditional classroom setting. This can make it difficult for students to complete hands-on assignments and projects, which are a crucial part of VET education. Additionally, students may struggle to maintain engagement and motivation when studying remotely, which can lead to lower academic performance.

To overcome these challenges, educators in the VET system are using a variety of tools and methods to make distance learning as effective as possible. These include video conferencing software for virtual classes and meetings, online learning platforms for assessments, and virtual simulations and labs for hands-on training. Additionally, many educators are using blended learning approaches, which combine remote and in-person instruction, to provide students with a balance of both online and offline learning experiences. 

Aligned with the aforementioned, the Hack4Society project will develop an online Hackathon Events Training Toolkit for VET educators. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all people and especially people with disabilities, economical problems and older people were affected. This social crisis increased inequality, social exclusion, discrimination, and global unemployment. Given that, the need for promotion of vocational education and training became urgent. This project aims to provide urgent bottom-up solutions to VET professionals, to support their on-line delivery of training, with the development of Hackathon events, to which equal access to all is granted. This will be achieved with 15 e-learning training modules. At this stage of implementation, the consortium has now synthesized the national state-of-the-art and contemporary reports, finalized the technical specifications, and linked the DigiComp thematics to the findings of the reports.

Overall, while distance learning in the VET system has its challenges, it has also provided benefits and opportunities for students to continue their education and training during the pandemic. However, the actual educational value of distance learning is still a topic of debate, as it is difficult to replicate the hands-on experience that is crucial to VET education. Nevertheless, with proper tools, methods, and strategies, educators have been able to make the best out of this situation and keep education alive despite the pandemic.

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