University of Fukui

OrganizationUniversity of Fukui
TitleCollaborative effort using Zoom
City, CountryFukui Prefecture, Japan

In this fiscal year, the Graduate School Education of the University of Fukui has 98 graduate students. With the number of students tripled since the establishment and the number of stakeholder organizations significantly increased, the graduate school has been expanding as a symbiotic learning community. COVID-19 impacted us at the very moment of the start of this fiscal year. Not only the entrance to the university was banned but also the conference in which participants’ practices are shared and learning at a close distance in the Graduate School Education became unacceptable to avoid 3Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings). These limitations were a great shock to us in terms of the implementation of our curriculum as well as risk management.

Since early April, we had repeatedly discussed how to proceed planned schedule for this fiscal year. The dean suggested shifting our monthly conferences to an online setting; all the graduate school staff started preparation. The first step was for all staff to practice how to use Zoom; staff members including newly joined ones, worked together to send the manual of Zoom to graduate students, implement the Wi-Fi access survey and connection tests, and send its results to the conference preparatory meeting committee members. On April 25 and May 2, the conference preparatory meeting using Zoom was structured with almost the same contents as the conference held in April every year.

This meeting prompted a school to connect the principal, vice-principal and other education supervisors with university staff via Zoom by utilizing a huge monitor for remote learning distributed by Fukui prefecture to schools. This effort was arranged by a graduate student from our department who is also a headteacher of a grade level in that school. Subsequently after the school reopening, the university staff visited the school and discussed in small groups about possible topics for the in-school lesson study group and lesson design based on the results of the discussions. We directly felt teachers’ commitment towards teaching from their passionate discussion and attitude to listen sincerely to other teachers’ talk in this emergency state of COVID-19. Meeting face-to-face might be the key that enabled us to understand teachers’ high motivation, passion and energy.

Since then, the monthly conference in May, reflective sessions among staff members, graduate student management seminars, and Reflective Practice and Organizational Learning Fukui Roundtable were held via Zoom. The management seminar had been held face-to-face until the last fiscal year but is being held via Zoom for this fiscal year. The benefits of online meetings include “no transportation/transit time” and interactive communication among multiple members through the “chat, respond, and raise-a-hand” functions. Chat logs are also saved. Booking venues or transportation allowances are no longer a concern.

However, disadvantages include “brain and eye fatigue when the meeting gets long” and “difficulties in grasping the atmosphere.” Class visits in which parents and teachers can directly listen to children’s voices and directly watch children expressing their opinions, and lesson study groups to discussing children’s academic achievement as evaluated during class visits are impossible to implement via Zoom. We will work on a hybrid approach by utilizing advantages of both face-to-face activities, in which the atmosphere and energy of students and teachers can be understood in three dimensions in the same place and in real-time, and mixed with online activities.