Last year, Lithuanian students spent 200 days studying remotely. But Vilnius Ozas Gymnasium has been organising distance learning for over 20 years. Could more schools adopt such a teaching model even after the pandemic?
Vilnius Ozas Gymnasium started organising distance learning 20 years ago as an “experiment”, according to the school principal Albinas Daubaras. Today, around 1,300 students of Ozas Gymnasium follow classes online from 34 different countries.
“Our system differs from that adopted by most schools during the pandemic,” Daubaras told LRT.lt. “Most of them focused on live streaming of lessons. Our students live all over the world, so it would be impossible for us to live stream lessons due to time differences.”
Instead, Ozas Gymnasium teachers record their lessons in advance and provide all necessary material so that children could study at a time convenient for them.
After each lesson, students must complete homework that teachers mark and provide feedback on. Students can also contact their teachers through special computer programmes.
“Since we designed the whole system ourselves, it has changed many times,” the school principal said.
According to him, if there happened to be an issue with the system, the administration always discussed it with the entire school community.
“Eventually, we managed to create a smoothly working system,” Daubaras said.
“The vast majority of students and parents are satisfied. The number of students is constantly increasing, and the exam results are also good,” he said, referring to the success of the Ozas Gymnasium’s distance learning model.
According to Daubaras, distance learning is more flexible and allows providing students with more creative tasks. It also encourages teachers’ creativity, as they need to constantly look for new ways of teaching to keep students interested.
“Traditional teachers sometimes complain about the tension or monotony at their work. At our school, teachers do not have to deal with disciplinary issues in classrooms, which is often time-consuming and requires a lot of emotional energy,” he explained.
Moreover, such a learning model helps the school tackle the shortage of teachers, as they can work from anywhere just like their students.
According to Daubaras, distance learning programmes can also more easily adapt to students with special needs and benefit those who experience peer pressure or bullying.
In his words, criticism about the limited socialisation of students is valid, but children can socialise via social media or extracurricular activities even if they study online.
Not easy to replicate
Despite the benefits of distance learning, replicating Ozas Gymnasium’s model in other Lithuanian schools could be difficult because of the lack of resources, said Ainius Lašas, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences Humanities, and Arts at the Kaunas University of Technology.
“It would be meaningful to have such a system. But it requires investment, work, and maintenance,” Lašas said.
There is also no common database of digital learning material that all teachers could use for teaching their classes online, the dean added.
According to him, the government seems to be hoping for the pandemic to end soon, so it sees no need to invest in distance learning.
The article is part of LRT's solutions journalism project, LRT Looks for Solutions.