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EMPOWERMENT OF NETWORKING IN LITHUANIAN COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOLS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

I. Bilbokaitė-Skiauterienė, R. Bilbokaitė

Vilnius University Siauliai Academy (LITHUANIA)
Today’s world is facing unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 pandemic. The threat of the spread of the coronavirus in Lithuania was declared as the state-level emergency in February 2020, imposed by quarantine, embracing citizen movement in the country, restrictions on public and private activities, organizations of health care as well as social services and educational institutions. The education and childcare process, educational activities in all educational institutions have been suspended, organizing the educational process in a distance mode. All this demanded high efforts of representatives of educational institutions to ensure the continuity of the education process.

The study aims to reveal the empowerment of networking at Lithuanian comprehensive education schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The problem of the research. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented challenges for educational institutions, and Lithuanian comprehensive education schools are unable to exist in a closed system. To accommodate this, a network bringing together the Ministry of Education, schools, parents, school students has been launched. The problem study questions are raised: How do educational institutions operate in the network to achieve a common goal? Is the continuity of the pedagogical education process ensured by distance teaching and learning? What challenges of distance education have been encountered by representatives of educational institutions acting in the network?

Research methodology:
30 video conferences-reflections held by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania intended for the development of distance education performed during the I-I quarantine (April–June 2020) were analyzed. The content of these events was focused on the management of learning loads, assurance of feedback, learning support to school students, problems of experiential education, challenges and opportunities of distance education. The method of content analysis was used to analyze the data. The content of the videoconference was transcribed in separate protocols. The analysis has been conducted by consistently analysing the content of a text, dividing the content under investigation into analytical units, i.e. categories, sub-categories, which are particular aspects of empowerment of networking, expressed through the representing statements. The study refers to connectivism as a learning theory, the concept of social networking, the concept of organization as a solid system.

Results of the study:
The quarantine period was a challenge seeking to ensure efficient learning in a distance mode, when a number of issues have been faced during the first week of the quarantine: a shortage of hardware and software, Internet connection, digital learning environments, platforms for videoconferencing designed for educational institutions and families; poor command of technological innovations, indirect education of school students when involving the assistance of parents. Nevertheless, a close network of educational community based on cooperation among state institutions, school communities, and families has been created to solve the occurring problems. The networking participants were united by the common goal to achieve educational objectives while shifting key aspects in the content of the curriculum. The networking has successfully ensured the dissemination of ideas, information, knowledge, experience among its participants.