CoHE President Erol Özvar Shares Details about In-person Learning at Universities

September 8, 2021

Prof. Erol Özvar, President of the Council of Higher Education, said that courses would be offered face-to-face in the 2021-2022 academic year, as they were offered 1,5 years ago and noted that the teaching opportunities would be enriched with distance learning methods such as online, asynchronous and asynchronous learning.

CoHE President Özvar talked about the start of face-to-face education at universities in the 2021-2022 academic year.

He hoped that the new academic year would be beneficial for all students, their parents and academic staff, and congratulated the students who would start tertiary education according to the results of YKS Exam this year.

Özvar reiterated that two additional placements would be made for unused quotas after the completion of university admissions and said, “I would like to emphasize that the students who were not placed in any programs after the first placement should never be upset. Instead, they should focus on the additional placements and make their selections after consulting with their families and acquaintances. Those who were not placed during the central placement will hopefully complete their applications during these additional placements and will seize the opportunity to choose a higher education program for their future.”

He pointed out that the minimum scores for the second additional placement were reduced this year and added, “The second additional placement created an opportunity for students. I hope they will be placed in their preferred programs.”

- "It cannot be expected for distance education to substitute in-person learning in higher education”

Özvar stated that students had been having online courses for the last 1,5 years and said, “It has not been an easy period. However, I am of the opinion that Turkish universities successfully managed this process. Students continued their courses with patience. Distance learning is a part of higher education, not itself entirely. It cannot be expected for distance education to substitute in-person learning in higher education. What matters in formal education is in-person learning. CoHE believes that face-to-face education at all Turkish universities is a rule of thumb. However, there may be times when the conditions are not right to offer in-person learning, as in formal education. Nevertheless, we successfully managed to offer education completely through distance education means due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the last 1,5 years. Education will be offered face-to-face according to the decision we have taken for all universities for the 2021-2022 academic year. We now want courses to be offered face-to-face at universities, that is, having students and faculty members on campuses. It is of great importance for us.”

- How will the hybrid learning methods be?

CoHE President Özvar noted that the guide, which was prepared for healthy campus practices during the pandemic by CoHE, TSE and the Ministry of Health the previous year, was updated and adapted to the new situation.

He stated that the two guides containing the framework decisions of CoHE could be considered as guides for university administrations in terms of practices and said, "Complying with mask and distance rules in classes and on campuses, offering medical counseling, airing out classrooms as much as possible, ensuring that course hours are limited, and avoiding block classes are some basic measures that are of great importance to reduce the spread of the pandemic. Having a limited number of people in lecture halls, classrooms and laboratories that do not have good ventilation and dividing students into groups are also important practices.”

Özvar said that the guide also included details about the educational processes as well as COVID-19 measures and added, “Turkish universities will now start offering face-to-face education. We completed the legislative works required to allow universities to offer some of their courses online and shared them with the universities. 40% of the courses or 40% of a certain course could be offered online at Turkish universities. In other words, while universities continue to offer face-to-face education, students can also have a part of a course through distance learning. Thus, educational activities can be carried out through blended (hybrid) learning methods at Turkish universities.”

Özvar noted that blended learning is the delivery of a course or a part of courses online along with face-to-face education. “Distance learning may not always be online and some of the materials such as course notes and chats may be uploaded to the system beforehand. Therefore, students can access these courses and notes whenever they want without being online. While Turkish universities offer in-person classes for some courses as they are familiar with the distance learning method, they can also offer these courses to their students in a synchronous way. The universities can make applications that allow students to view the recorded videos of the courses which is also known as asynchronous learning. In addition to face-to-face education, education could also be offered through various distance learning methods such as online, synchronous and asynchronous learning. The universities could benefit from these teaching methods as they wish during the COVID-19 pandemic. The courses will start to be offered face-to-face at universities, as it was offered 1,5 years ago. We look forward to welcoming our students to our universities."

- "We expect everyone at Turkish universities to be vaccinated”

CoHE President Erol Özvar pointed out the importance of protecting the health of all university employees and students in in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and said, “University is a huge ecosystem. There are many stakeholders such as academic staff, administrative personnel, students, firms that are in close contact with each other under the university-industry cooperation and suppliers in this ecosystem. We are all responsible of every piece of this ecosystem. I would like to call out to our academic staff, administrative staff and students about vaccination. We expect everyone at Turkish universities to be vaccinated. If students get vaccinated and obey the rules for wearing masks, keeping distance and practicing hygiene, we can have in-person classes at universities more comfortably and properly.”

- Universities will be able to monitor the course of the pandemic related to students, academic staff and administrative staff through HES codes

CoHE President Erol Özvar talked about the monitoring of the COVID-19 processes on campuses. “Both CoHE and universities will monitor the COVID-19 data of students, academic staff and administrative personnel through HES codes. As is known, individuals can enter campuses by submitting their ID cards. Turkish universities have been working on HES codes in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. We have an advanced communication infrastructure. The universities have signed protocols with the Ministry of Health under the coordination of CoHE. They can receive the updated data related to COVID-19 from the Ministry of Health. In this way, they can monitor the digital information about the statuses of their academic staff, administrative personnel and students such as risky, infected and quarantined through the Ministry of Health. It will allow universities to closely watch the course of the pandemic related to the population of their students and academic staff. With these digital data, we actually have the opportunity to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic at universities and on campuses. In other words, we are bringing the digital management method related to COVID-19 to universities. Through this system, Turkish universities will have a much more effective administration during the pandemic.

- What to do in case of positive cases at universities?

"The Ministry of Health shares with us what measures will be taken when a case shows up in social and closed areas. At this stage, we will act according to the guide published by the Ministry of Health. The universities will share the concrete steps right before the start of the academic year with their students.” he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency