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ONLINE MATH COURSES: ADVANTAGES AND OBSTACLES IN AN INFORMATICS BACCALAUREATE

L. Babo 1, J.M. Mendonça 2, C. Pinto 3

1Polytechnic of Porto, ISCAP and CEOS.PP (PORTUGAL)
2Polythechnic of Porto, School of Engineering (PORTUGAL)
3Polythechnic of Porto, School of Engineering / University of Porto, Centre for Mathematics (PORTUGAL)
Last December 2019, the world has faced the beginning of an extreme pandemic, the COVID-19, which has disrupted our lives, and affected everyone, with no regards of nationality, level of education, income and/or gender. It has eroded trust in public services (with special focus to education and health), and governments, and demanded prompt responses.

Education was particularly exposed and undermined, with 1.2 billion students affected worldwide, over schools’ closure, and a shift to a fully online educational regime. Moreover, students from disadvantaged backgrounds were the most damaged, since the lack of access to electronic devices and wireless networks, prevented them to follow the online classes. Privileges from students with higher-income parents were emphasized due to easy access to alternative learning environments [1,2,3].

In this study, we focus on students attending a Baccalaureate in Informatics, with access to digital tools. They followed a math online course during the second semester of the academic year of 2019/2020. In the end of the semester, they were given a questionnaire to assess their perceptions on online learning regime, level of knowledge acquisition, teamwork, among others. The statistical tests pointed to advantages and obstacles of online learning. Main advantages of online learning are the flexible study hours, the travel time sparing to and out of university. The main pointed disadvantages were the lack of motivation, lack of focus, increased time consumption, difficulty in knowledge acquisition and in clarification of doubts. A closed contact with the teacher was also mentioned as handicap in online learning frameworks.

COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light several inadequacies and inequalities in our educational systems. Teachers, stakeholders, families, and students must contribute to an educational supportive environment, to enhance focus on learning, and reduce sine qua non resources and needs.