Adapting University Civic Education to COVID-19 in Ukraine
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenge for traditional in-person learning, but it also allows for new opportunities, as educators adapt to new learning approaches and techniques to reach students online and remotely. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) worked with Ukrainian educators and students to shift its university-level civic education course, Democracy: From Theory to Practice, to e-learning, or distance learning, in March 2020 to continue strengthening young people’s civic knowledge and skills to be active citizens during the pandemic.
Students reported¹ overwhelmingly positive responses when surveyed about their learning during the pandemic, with 71.3 percent stating that e-learning did not interfere with their ability to participate in the course. In addition, 80 percent of students strongly agreed that during the quarantine period they were engaged in interactive learning.
These numbers reflect efforts implemented by IFES during the initial stages of the quarantine period in Ukraine. To further address challenges posed by shifting to remote learning, IFES launched a series of two-hour webinars on distance learning for teachers of the Democracy: From Theory to Practice civic education course. In particular, educators were encouraged to use effective digital tools to achieve the course goals. They also received access to a web-based platform where they could consult and exchange best practices with each other and reflect on their experiences and lessons learned. The webinar series also highlighted ways for educators to remotely supervise student action projects, which form the core of IFES’ civic education course.
According to student feedback, 76.7 percent strongly agreed that the student action project helped them develop organizational and project management skills.
“The topic of my student project was very relevant to the quarantine period, and distance learning did not harm the quality of project implementation. On the contrary, it only enhanced and contributed to the ideas of the project. I really like the distance learning experience.” – Ukrainian university student
IFES’ quick response to new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic allowed educators and students to overcome the democratic learning gap and achieve course goals by the end of the semester. As a result, e-learning enriched the professional experience of educators and supported students to continue to build democratic knowledge, skills and attitudes. Altogether, 1,742 students completed the course in 2020, with 959 students completing the course in the spring semester.
The feedback shared by students also demonstrates that most educators successfully taught the course online, overcoming the challenges connected to digital and behavioral e-learning. Now, IFES is digitalizing its course to integrate best practices of online and offline learning and improve youth civic education in the digital age.
IFES’ Democracy: From Theory to Practice course was developed with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and UK aid from the UK government. Established in 1995, CEPPS pools the expertise of three premier international organizations dedicated to democratic development: IFES, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. CEPPS has a 25-year track record of collaboration and leadership in democracy, human rights and governance support, learning from experience, and adopting new approaches and tools based on the ever-evolving technological landscape.
The contents of this story are the responsibility of IFES and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, GAC or the governments of the United States, Canada or the UK.
¹ The data is taken from an internal monitoring survey, conducted at the end of the semester.
Published on August 19, 2020.