Tecnológico de MonterreyTransversal Training in Covid-19 Times

Transversal Training in Covid-19 Times

Transversal Training in Covid-19 Times

José Carlos Vázquez ParraMay 11, 2020

The hallmark of academic flexibility is explicitly recognized in the field of academics because that is where it is developed.

In an educational model, the characteristic of academic flexibility could be associated with a purely administrative meaning or also with the curricula; however, this is not correct. The hallmark of academic flexibility is explicitly recognized in the field of academics because that is where it is developed. Flexibility, like innovation, is an invitation to adapt teaching to the changing reality that students are experiencing and that future professionals will confront.

In response to the Covid-19 health crisis in Mexico, Tecnológico de Monterrey had to adapt to the circumstances, leading to a profound transformation, not only in the way classes were taught but also in the way the relationship with students was forged, and learning was promoted. This was possible thanks to the academic flexibility of the Tec21 Educational Model.

The past that prepared us

In 2009, the health crisis in Mexico, which was caused by the spread of influenza A H1N1 (“swine flu”), resulted in a relatively short suspension of classes (15-19 days). However, preventative actions were taken in case the contingency period might be extended (EXATEC, 2009). In 2017, the earthquake (7.1 on the Richter scale) that impacted the center of the country caused the Mexico City Campus to lose two of its classroom buildings. They sustained damage that prevented their use indefinitely (Lopez, 2017). On both occasions, it was necessary to implement digital tools to ensure academic continuity. This led to being part of the construction of the Flexible and Digital Model of Tec de Monterrey.

“What could have been perceived as a crisis became an opportunity.”

The flexibility, support, and commitment of the faculty addressed the reality of both these situations. They restored service to their students as soon as possible by teaching the courses remotely. As a result, the students and parents had peace of mind about the continuity of the academic semester and the training process. Thus, what could have been perceived as a crisis became an opportunity to test the capacity of the academic staff to adapt and acquire competencies. This was an excellent example of educational innovation (Tecnológico de Monterrey, 2017).

Flexible Digital Model: a response to the crisis

Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, the suspension of classes for the semester was definitively decreed, so the deployment of educational flexibility occurred under a vision of continuity (Informador, 2020). Although within virtual education models, the process of digitalizing courses is not new, the Flexible and Digital Model seeks to go further. Therefore, the institution needed to implement an extensive teacher-training program so that, more than just digitalization, an academic transformation that meets the demands of this new reality would stick (Tec, 2020).

Rather than being a short-term response, the Flexible and Digital Model seeks to modify courses beyond virtuality, turning semester courses into a flexible, hybrid, and digital models of learning. Faculty staff was trained not only to continue their subjects by digital means but also to transform the academic experience into something active and innovative. They also could take advantage of the opportunities that digital media courses offer, through the adoption of applications, programs, and platforms that cover this necessity and that also enrich each class (Tec, 2020).

“The Flexible and Digital Model for Education of Tec de Monterrey seeks more than digitalization, an academic transformation that meets the demands of this new reality.”

Even so, the perception of many teachers about these modifications can be related to a more traditional approach. Although this model helps the continuity of classes, it also provides a level of reflection and analysis through the interaction of the students and the transversal training courses that develop social or human skills and competencies (Tecnológico de Monterrey, 2019).

However, this vision can be skewed because virtuality can indeed limit contact, but this does not imply that the interaction cannot take place. Besides, the flexible and digital model proposal not only situates in the online delivery of courses but instead, it proposes a profound transformation of the way knowledge is taught and imparted. There are still many areas where one can innovate in the educational field. This model provides an opportunity to come up with exciting and creative proposals regarding how competencies are analyzed, learned, and developed in the classrooms.

One example of opportunity is the time to reflect on this health crisis. Unlike other social issues, which sometimes get analyzed from a viewpoint removed from the reality of students, this crisis is a real situation that all are experiencing, and that affects each one of the students and their families.

A proposal to trigger reflection in the face of the crisis

In my course in professional and citizen ethics, I opened a space dedicated to reflection through the use of Padlet, where students gather ideas, notes, and thoughts about inequality in this time of Covid-19. Instead of undergoing a classroom approach, where poverty and inequality in the country are analyzed, the students build knowledge actively. They share what they feel, live, and perceive, how they listen, and how the pandemic can lead to situations of inequality in Mexico.

As a teacher, the role of a guide is to detonate reflection, provide some ideas, images, or notes on topics such as panic shopping, product shortages, access to medical services in rural communities, or even the privilege of being able to work from home.

“The students reached a level of depth similar to, or even greater than, that of a discussion group.”

As an activity, students are expected to make a video in teams covering a specific subject that shows inequality during the times of Covid-19. They bring up their vision, their perspectives as future professionals, and they bring a brief message from a specialist on the selected subject. Because they are taking a course that emphasizes innovation and the social responsibility of organizations, the teams must also make a simple proposal for social change. The project responds to a specific problem identified in this crisis and can be adopted for similar future situations. Although this activity can be part of one of the regular face-to-face courses, the virtuality led to a need to be flexible in the spaces for reflection and analysis. The students reached a level of depth similar to, or even greater than, that of a discussion group.

Transversal training must also be adapted to the reality in which we live. This turns out to be a particular challenge when talking about courses that base much of their learning on the possibility of doing collaborative reflections. Indeed, it is complicated to be able to develop social or human sub-competencies when human contact is virtual. However, this is not an option but rather a necessity that invites us to be innovators and show our commitment to the training of our students.

About the author

Dr. José Carlos Vázquez (jcvazquezp@tec.mx) is a professor-researcher in the Department of Humanistic Studies in the School of Humanities and Education on the Guadalajara Campus. He is a member of the National System of Researchers and specializes in economic ethics, gender studies, and educational innovation.


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