Training ‘Online education with MS 365’ Helps 2,300 Teachers in Their Virtual Classrooms

The situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, one of them being the problem of switching to online schooling. The project for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, which is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Government and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) addresses this issue together with its project partners, the Ministry of Education, Youth, Science, Culture and Sport of Bosnian-Podrinje Canton, the Pedagogical Institute of Zenica-Doboj Canton, the Republic Pedagogical Institute of Republika Srpska and the Hadžići Secondary School Centre. 

An education named ‘Online education with MS 365’ was organised for teachers, principals and system administrators from secondary vocational schools from the Bosnian-Podrinje Canton Goražde, Sarajevo Canton and Zenica-Doboj Canton as well as seven local communities in Republika Srpska (Prijedor, Gradiška, Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Trebinje, Srbac and Doboj). More than 2,300 participants adopted new knowledge that will help them to implement online schooling and strengthen their skills in terms of using the MS Teams application, which is a key tool for holding classes over the Internet.

Admir Kurtović, Director of the Bosnian-Podrinje Canton Goražde Pedagogical Institute, stated that this training has raised the digital competency among the teaching staff and enabled them to provide training for their colleagues, pupils and other participants in the teaching process. In Zenica-Doboj Canton, the training encompassed more than 1,000 teachers from 19 schools. Aida Salkić, the Director of the Zenica-Doboj Canton Pedagogical Institute, and Almir Sivro, an expert associate, agreed that the new circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have forced teachers to move out of their comfort zone and to face the challenge of upgrading their skills. The challenge that they have had to accept is not an easy one but it has given them a new way of working and one that helps them to overcome the difficulties brought about by the pandemic.

Selver Ejubović, who is the Principal of the Hadžići Secondary School Centre, emphasised the advantages that the MS Teams application has to offer. He said that the platform they used earlier was not suitable and was difficult to use. “The switch to MS Teams and the education we received have opened many options for us and the transition went smoothly thanks to our wonderful educators.” 

The new model of schooling has secured the continuity of teaching in vocational schools during the pandemic and the vast majority of teachers will continue to use their new skills and to utilise the advantages of online schooling once the pandemic is behind us. 

Adnan Alić, Deputy Principal at the Combined Secondary School in Tešanj, agreed that the new software and new knowledge have had positive effects. In his opinion, online teaching has shown the best results in theoretical subjects and general education. He is of the opinion that some courses will always require the classical way of teaching but that for the vast majority of occupations it is possible to provide education over the Internet, in the same way the ‘Online education with MS 365’ training showed its participants. 

The MS Teams application has many advantages. This not only relates to the use of its online tools for work with pupils but also to improved communication among the school staff. Elma Delić, a teacher from the Secondary Technical School “Hasib Hadžović” in Goražde, confirmed this through her assertion that the teachers and the school management have improve collaboration within their team by applying the new skills and tools and by staging their teachers’ meetings, board meetings and workgroups online. 

Haris Bunjo, a system administrator at the Secondary Vocational School “Džemal Bijedić” in Goražde, said that before switching to MS Teams teachers had experimented with Viber, Facebook Messenger and some other apps but none of them were able to respond to their needs and that their problems related to holding classes online persisted until they switched to MS Teams. 

Mile Vajkić, a teacher from the Mechanical Engineering School in Prijedor, agreed that the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to seek solutions to make the switch to online teaching. He sees one special advantage of MS Teams as its compatibility with digital school records that are based on the digital platform EDUIS that recently has been in use in schools in Republika Srpska. Because of the integration of the two platforms, it is possible to access both the MS Teams and EDUIS application using just one user account.

According to Srđan Đukanović, a vocational subjects teacher at the Technical School in Gradiška, MS Teams has improved both the teaching process and the process of verification of pupil knowledge. He believes that the previous technical solutions did not allow for a proper evaluation and verification of pupil knowledge and that the improvement achieved stems from the use of MS Teams and the education of teachers in the use of this application. 

After the successful completion of the educational program ‘Online school with MS 365,’ the necessity to provide additional education and training in the field of online teaching became clear. The GIZ project ‘Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ will jointly with its project partner continue with a new series of training aiming at strengthening the abilities of teachers to prepare and perform teaching online.