Technical Economic School Tirana: Shifting Towards Educational Technologies

Technical Economic School Tirana: Shifting Towards Educational Technologies

In its Second Phase, S4J extended its support to another 3 VE providers. After two months of preparations and negotiations, Shkolla Teknike Ekonomike Tiranë (SHTET) and S4J signed a joint yearly work plan in late October 2019. Both parties had committed to focusing their engagement during the first year on promoting close collaboration with the private sector companies as a way to diversify the offer and to remain relevant to learners and the private sector as projections for the new enrolments showed a possible decline.

Based on an assessment, the project made an (initial) investment of 10 laptops for teachers and 59 desktops, some for classrooms where blended learning would be piloted, and some for an IT laboratory. At the time the students-per-computer ratio in SHTET was 78 to 1. At the time, the average rate in Albania was 31 to 1 (UNICEF data) while the EU average was 7 to 1. The new devices were installed in mid-November 2019. Less than two weeks later, on November 26th, a deadly earthquake hit central Albania. It forced the closure of all public buildings, including SHTET, for a number of weeks. In December, the construction company informed the school management reconstruction works were (finally starting). What a start for a project that aimed to kick off a transformation process.

As teachers and students had settled, in early January 2020, in two other school buildings, things started to kind of work in the ‘temporary normal’. On March 11th, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared CoViD-19 had grown into a pandemic. Most of the countries in the world went into lockdowns. Over a billion learners and teachers are forced to continue teaching and learning remotely. At this moment, teachers and the management of SHTET asked S4J for help. Their idea was to distribute the desktops and laptops to teachers to use in their homes as a way to stay connected with their students and be able to conduct some teaching. On March 17, computers were shipped to teachers’ houses and there started a journey that would set SHTET on a path to transforming the ways of teaching and learning. S4J provided technical assistance from national and international experts on how to engage with learners remotely and how to try and create some conditions for practical learning. – the Moodle-based online platform developed by S4J as part of its new ways of learning mission, was adapted to handle the increased traffic. Over 20 online training events took place during the rest of the academic year advising teachers on how to conduct online teaching, assess and better engage students. Communities of practice among teachers started to emerge as teachers needed to share their challenges and exchange experiences with each other. While most teachers in the country were relying on WhatsApp to engage their students in some forms of learning, SHTET teachers were interacting with their students in Google Meet, ZOOM, and other such platforms.

The need for suitable online content becomes more eminent, and 13 of the best teachers of SHTET were engaged to develop and quality-assure learning materials that were subsequently digitalized and made available in the MesoVET Platform for all VET schools in the country.

After intensive training and coaching by S4J experts, slowly but steadily, SHTET teachers started to use MesoVET (from 3% in April 2020 to 60% in December 2021). During the AY2021-2022, 60% of the students were using MesoVET regularly for their classes. The availability of teaching materials for all vocational theory subjects in the platform makes a difference and is contributing to blending learning experiences for students, on a regular basis. At the end of AY2020-2021, SHTET used MesoVET for end-of-year exams for some classes. At the end of AY 2021-2022, 100% of the students took their exams online via MesoVET. Results were produced automatically, saving teachers lots of time to assess the exams, and despite the initial skepticism, the platform managed process increased fairness avoiding student complaints (according to the school principal:). Each classroom of SHTET is now equipped with a computer, a smart TV, or a projector. The Offline feature of MesoVET will make it even easier for students to access, internet-free, materials outside of school. This shall make a difference for students coming from rural areas where broadband internet penetration is 5 times lower compared to urban areas (INSTAT data).

Furthermore, in 2020 SHTET started using AlphaWeb software as learning material for their students. In 2022 they concluded a deal with Finance 5. In 2022, the school purchased software for its fashion design students. For the AY2022-2023 a deal is in the making with Logical to use their software solutions as teaching materials. Teachers, students, and management staff feature regularly now in many publications, and national and international events to share their experience: Albania, Switzerland, Serbia, France, Ireland, Cambodia, and Italy. All this now happens remotely, so NO, they are not spending that much money to exchange with peers. They wish they could travel a bit more though. Maybe next year that will be the focus of their applications for Erasmus Pro :).

Firm on its commitment to modernizing teaching and learning, SHTET has set its ambition a little higher this time around. It has mobilized a partnership between the Albanian E-Commerce Association and NAVETQ to explore what the new professions in e-commerce will be as it is looking to renew its offer, as accounting and commerce are not as appealing to the young people in Albania. They have learned the lesson ‘there is no e-commerce without education technologies’.

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