All of a sudden, the model of education needs to change in times of pandemic. Grupo UNIP Objetivo found itself in a situation, without any prior preparation, where it had to migrate half a million students, of the most varied age groups, from face-to-face education to virtual classrooms. The technological partnership with Microsoft and the work of integration carried out by ITCore made it possible, with the use of Office 365 and Teams, to recreate on-line a study environment similar to a physical classroom, with resources that proved to be extremely efficient. So much so, that henceforth measures that would be emergency ones will start to be adopted normally in the daily routines of the students of the UNIP Objetivo Group.
The UNIP Objetivo Group is the third largest educational group in Brazil, operating from childhood education to the Phd level and boasting around 750,000 students in different units: 28 UNIP campuses, 10 of its own school units, 48 associated faculties, 1,200 distance education poles in Brazil and an additional pole in Japan.
From face-to-face DNA to a remote classroom without any previous preparation
The great challenge for UNIP Objetivo at the time of a pandemic was to migrate very rapidly to an on-line model all the pedagogic activities of a group which, despite having a strong presence in Distance Education, has a DNA built on face-to-face classes. In less than a month, without any prior preparation, all the business units, catering for a wide variety of age groups, needed to adopt on-line education.
Marcello Vannini, director of technology of UNIP-Objetivo, outlined the problem: “we are talking about moving a little more than half a million students to a new pedagogic environment, which should be implemented in a short space of time so as not to impact the business. And in this respect the technological partnership with Microsoft was fundamental.”
Vannini needed a tool able to provide:
– Capacity for a rapid integration with the group’s varied environments
– Easy assimilation by all the students
– Possibilities for integrating collaboration systems
Unlike Distance Education, in this case it would be fundamental to have interaction with the teachers and the virtual participation of the students during the classes. That is to say, the construction of remote classrooms, operating as close as possible to a class given on traditional lines.
Half a million students in transition
The implementation of Office 365 was the response to this challenge in terms of offering applications of daily use, of general knowledge. This platform, therefore, was implemented for the whole educational network to then create virtual classrooms for all the system of primary and secondary education with the Microsoft Teams.
Marcello Vannini outlines the solution as follows:
“We divided the project into two stages: first, we delivered the credentials of Office 365 to all our students. Afterwards, we sought a partner with technical expertise to integrate the principal tool – in our view, Teams – which would allow collaboration with our legacy environments. Then we went to the market and brought in ITCore to head this project, beginning with the most sensitive business unit in the group, which is Colégio Objetivo.”
Colégio Objetivo, which has its origin in a preparatory course for medicine created in São Paulo in 1965, is today one of the leading schools in Brazil, with its own and affiliated units throughout the country. With Teams integrated to their academic management system, it was possible for ITCore to provide virtual classrooms for whole school system, extended later to the whole group.
Integrated to Office 365, Teams connect teachers and students, providing a very different experience from the videoclasses or videoconference.
This is because Teams is a hub that joins a series of Microsoft solutions, allowing teachers and students, for example, to have access to a calendar of classes, a library of files and e-mails of the class.
With Teams, a whole ecosystem is formed, capable of really creating a virtual classroom in which the teacher has the student’s agenda, accompanies his or her activities, creates study groups or utilizes separate digital content, helping to produce for both teacher and student a similar experience to that of the classroom – but without physical contact.
Uniting two worlds
“The main benefit for us was to realize that it is possible to provide face-to-face education with a tool of technological collaboration,” says Vannini.
And adds that “it is very complicated to transport to the virtual world a whole routine, the whole experience that the student has at school. Which is not only receiving subject materials. Students exchange ideas and play around with their colleagues; they bump into the teacher in the corridors… And, to a certain degree, Teams managed to link all this for us.”
Vannini relates the experience of teachers that notice as well a greater participation, a greater involvement of the majority of students in the virtual classrooms than in the physical classrooms, at times becoming more comfortable in relation to the teacher, through the possibility – which can be important for the more timid – of clarifying doubts by means of on-line tools, such as the chat, which does not expose them to any ridicule from their colleagues.
“I think we are going through a process of accommodation contemplating the best of the two worlds – face-to-face and virtual – in which there will no longer be such a clear dividing line of the type: “look here, you are a face-to-face student”, “you are an on-line or distance education student.” I believe that the tendency is to reach a consensus in the sense that to study, now, will be a mix with certain moments of face-to-face teaching and others 100% on-line.”