Global Free Webinars for Students

Global Free Webinars for Students

#studentwebinars

We'd like to help students all over the world understand what viruses are, why/how they make us sick and how we can fight them.

Created on: April 18, 2020

by Eugenia Covernton

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Slack channel in the OpenCovid19 slack: #proj-free-edu-webinars-viruses

The webinars are organized by Lecturers Without Borders (LeWiBo). You can find us in Facebook, Twitter, GitHub and join the Lecturers without borders JOGL community.

If you would like to request a webinar for your institution, please contact us using this form.

If you would like to participate as a lecturer, please volunteer using this form.


Introduction 

Problem and Background:

Along with the serious health consequences of the disease and the economic consequences of the lockdown, the current COVID-19 pandemic is creating a series of social problems all around the world, most of which are a direct consequence of lack of public understanding of the situation. People hoarding supplies, protesting for the “inability of scientists to find a cure”, spreading fake news and conspiracy theories in social networks and becoming paralyzed with fear and uncertainty over how to behave in order to prevent getting sick are all examples of these social challenges that arise, at least in part, from a lack of knowledge. 

Millions of high-school and university students all over the world are currently forced to stay at home and rely on online tools for their education. With this project, we aim to empower students not only to understand the current outbreak of COVID-19 but also to get a broader understanding of biology, scientific research, epidemiology, drug discovery, vaccine development and all the challenges and limitations of our current knowledge. We would like to encourage critical thinking and allow them to become active themselves in educating others, showing them how they can contribute to reduce these social problems.


Solution summary in simple terms:

We are developing a series of webinars in English, Spanish and French that we'd like to offer for free to schools and universities. They will be recorded to make them available as online lectures. We will add new material building on the existing capacity found at general library collection. This library contains video lectures and online materials curated by the Lecturers without borders association. Our network of collaborators around the globe includes more than 8000 schools in more than 20 countries.

Students will be invited by their institutions and participation will be entirely optional. We will coordinate all activities, adapting the content to the specific requests of each institution and to the prior knowledge of the students.

The webinars will be interactive and the students will have the opportunity to send us questions beforehand in order to actively participate in determining the content of each session. Current advances in COVID-19 research will be presented along with - and as an example of - broader concepts that we consider are important for the students to grasp fully: why and how diseases spread, how scientists try to understand them, what are the biggest challenges in "finding a cure" and why epidemics tend to be hard to predict.


Solution summary in technical terms:

Our webinars will be delivered using online tools already available to the schools and universities[3].We have already organised first webinars in Germany, India and Russia (A full list can be found on our website.

In cases where the institutions already have platforms for distance learning in place, we will prioritize using those. Otherwise, we will provide them ourselves using online conferencing tools such as Jitsi or Zoom. No new platform will be developed by us, since we consider that the effort would not be justified given the number of options already available. 

The lecturers will all have a strong background in virology, epidemiology and public health. Based on the success of this first round of webinars, we would like eventually to expand the expertise to other areas and continue to offer these webinars after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, covering other topics in science and technology. In that sense, we would capitalize this challenging situation by developing new collaborations with institutions and researchers now that will continue to expand once the situation goes “back to normal”. 


State of advancement of the project:

Lecturers Without Borders has a broad network of institutions and partners in several different countries that we plan to collaborate with for this project. We have already started developing the first webinar in collaboration with Galileo Teacher Training Program that will be entirely dedicated to understanding virology and directed to high-school students (aged 14-17) from Portugal. We have also started discussing with schools in Argentina, Estonia, Nepal, India and Ghana to offer these webinars. 


Project Timeline:


Day 1: Project open presentation on website and JOGL platform     

Day 2-9: Open call for scientists willing to give lectures

Day 3-10: Preparations and collection of requests from schools for hosting webinars

Day 4-5: Parallel selection and continuous discussions with scientists

Day 4-10: Connect scientists with schools and universities based on requests from educational institutions

Day 5-11: Video calls with scientists who need help on technical or lectures organisation

Day 12-40+: Delivery of the webinars and evaluation of the results of the interventions

Day 45: Summary report of impact of the webinars




Project Implementation

Intervention:

The main aim of the project is to develop a series of webinars that will be offered for free to schools in different countries. Our short-term objective is to focus on virology, epidemiology and public health as main topics and to test the format and evaluate the response of the institutions and the students themselves. 

In the context of COVID-19, our immediate aim is to help students become active in spreading reliable information and becoming referents among their friends and families. The traditional view of knowledge transmission tends to situate teenagers (and young adults) in the passive role of “receivers”. This pandemic is making us question many of our “traditional views”, and we think that this one is one of the views that needs to be challenged. There are currently millions of parents that are overwhelmed by the combination of several factors: many have lost their jobs, many others have to work from home while taking care of young children, most are facing difficult economic situations… and most (if not all) of them worry that they might not be taking enough precautions to protect their families from a threat that remains somehow mysterious and frightening. 

By challenging the traditional passive role of young students, we could contribute to reducing one of these sources of stress: teenagers and young adults could help their own families by becoming themselves a reliable source of knowledge regarding the epidemics and a reliable “information filter” for the household. This could be of great help for many parents, for which taking the time to learn themselves all they would like to know in order to respond to the pandemic the best way possible is simply impossible.

Moreover, these webinars would help awaken in the students a desire to learn more and to teach themselves to their pairs (friends, siblings) what they've learnt. The benefits of the webinar series will most probably go way beyond “teaching virology”.

In the long term, the idea would be to expand the catalogue of available webinars and the network of participating researchers and institutions. We would like to eventually develop a dynamic catalogue of webinars on different topics related to science and technology that are offered with a certain periodicity by the participating institutions to their students.

Finally, this project has the potential of enabling collaborations both among researchers and between schools and universities. We could use the webinars as a tool to bring together students from different schools (maybe in different parts of the world) to work together on projects and organize joint activities.


Methodology:

We will start by expanding our panel of lecturers and identifying the institutions that are interested in offering the webinars. The specific requests of the schools will be matched with the most suitable lecturers, who will then discuss the details of their webinars with the school. 

If a platform needs to be used that the lecturer is not familiar with, we will coordinate the training of the lecturers and/or of the students to try to prevent technical difficulties. We will assist both the lecturers and the institutions in everything related to the webinars, from defining the content to evaluating the results of the intervention. 


The methodology can therefore be described as:


1.Call for researchers and institutions willing to participate and having skills for making webinars

We will open a call for researchers in the relevant fields and advertise it using our usual channels (plus JOGL platform and partners) in order to expand our current database. We will also call institutions to express their interest in the webinars and provide us with specific information about the audience and content required.

The skills verifications will be made through a review system - if the applicant was recommended by someone or through someone.


2.Matching of the lecturers and institutions according to their interests and expertise

We will propose a match that will be discussed and agreed to by both parts involved. Contact between lecturers and institutions will be mediated by Lecturers Without Borders.


3.Coaching of lecturers and institutions to jointly develop the curriculum and determine the platform to be used

Both parts will be assisted in determining the best format for their needs. Technical support will be provided to both parts to adapt the content to the needs and available technology of the schools or universities.


4.Assistance during the webinars

Staff from Lecturers Without Borders will be available to guarantee that there are no problems during the seminars and will intervene in case of need. Volunteers will be asked from slack of Lewibo and will be invited to participate in JOGL platform and OpenCovid slack.


5.Evaluation of the results

Lecturers Without Borders will evaluate the interventions through feedback forms and other evaluation methods that will be tailored to each institution and jointly designed. We will not require a particular form of evaluation from all institutions since the idea of the webinars is to adapt as much as possible to the existing methods used by the institutions (which may or may not include evaluation of the theoretical content learned by students). We will, however, encourage students to give feedback on the quality and perceived utility of the webinar.


Expected results:

We expect to have successfully prepared and delivered at least 10 webinars before the end of June 2020. The results of the evaluation of the interventions will be shared openly with JOGL and available online on our website.


Safety, quality assurance and regulation

There are no major safety concerns associated with our project. We will require the institutions and researchers to consent to the publication of their identities and of the results of the interventions. The identity of the students (specially those that are legal minors) will not be published and consent will be required from participants if we consider the need to publish any pictures or other information that may be subject to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  

The feedback forms for the evaluation of the interventions will be designed with the help of education scientists. 

We also have scientific advisory board of Lecturers without borders and steering committee which can assure the quality and make valuable suggestions.


Impact, issues and risks

Impact

Although it is, a priori, an educational intervention, our project will not only contribute to the general education of students. We strongly believe that it can have a very positive and direct impact in the management of the pandemic of COVID-19 by providing not only the participants but also their families and friends with reliable information that will help prevent the spread of the disease.

We will consider this project successful if we get the institutions actively involved and willing to repeat and expand the catalogue of webinars offered to their students. This will in turn depend on how positively the students themselves evaluated the webinars. 

 

Known issues

The biggest limitation of our project is that it relies entirely on technological resources that we know are not equally available everywhere. This is in itself a source of inequality between institutions that may cause the quality of the interventions to vary between them, and may exclude potentially interested institutions completely. 


Team experience

Members:

Liubov Tupikina: Researcher, working on stochastic processes and applications with research groups in France, Germany, Russia. Co-organiser of several communities on JOGL including CorrelAid Paris project, she is passionate about teaching mathematics and its applications to other fields, including epidemiology. General coordination of the project.

Anastasia Mityagina: Project Coordinator of Lecturers without borders. She has graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical State University. Pedagogical coordination and evaluation of the project.

Mikhail Khotyakov: Mathematics teacher. Founder of several educational initiatives in Germany and Russia. Coordination of webinars.

Eugenia Covernton: Virologist, lecturer and coordinator of the webinars. Assistance in coordination and curriculum development during the initial phase of the project.

Delphine Zemp: Researcher working in Germany and Indonesia on interactions between tropical forests, climate change and land use by humans. Assistance in coordination of webinars.

Nasia Nikolau: Researcher working on early planetary climate and generic thermal convection problems in the German Aerospace Center, Berlin and in Italian University. Assistance in coordination of webinars.


More about us here https://scied.network/who-we-are/

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