Since its start, 2020 has brought a number of new challenges. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted Azerbaijan among others. Restrictive measures were taken in early March to prevent the spread of the virus. The suspension of the teaching process in schools and colleges, and the subsequent transition to distance learning was accompanied with the emergence of new trends in the educational environment in Azerbaijan.
Since foreign teachers have been among the key elements of the French-Azerbaijani University (UFAZ) since the first day, it has already accumulated necessary experience of online classes. While French teachers used to conduct most of their classes offline in Baku, they would communicate with students on the Moodle program of the University of Strasbourg and respond to their questions online when they were not physically in Azerbaijan.
Under the new circumstances, the UFAZ lecturers, both local and foreign-based, switched to distance learning completely on March 16, 2020, by continuing their instruction on the Microsoft Teams. In addition to online sessions, teachers uploaded lecture materials and posted video recordings of lectures on the platform. It brought flexibility to the teaching process, by allowing students to re-watch video-lessons at any time.
Students should also have technical means to join online classes, as each UFAZ student is immediately provided with a personal laptop, which could be used from the first year until graduation.
The UFAZ has 537 students in the 2019/2020 academic year: 148 freshmen, 150 sophomores, 114 juniors and 125 seniors.
According to the academic requirements, fourth-year students were supposed to undergo 10-14-week internships between March-June. The UFAZ Department of Education had already secured an internship for each students. However, the internship for the vast majority of students was postponed amid the pandemic. However, this situation was quickly and adequately addressed by local and French experts, who developed an alternative plan and instructed students to work on bibliographic topics appropriate to their fields. This process is overseen by program managers and designed individually for each student. They will have to submit their written reports until June 15, and present them orally in early July.
During the outbreak of the pandemic, five UFAZ students had just been sent to an internship program in France, while another six students were studying in Spain and France within the Erasmus + exchange program. The introduction of quarantine regimes in both countries complicated the situation of our students. The UFAZ managers kept regular contact with these students and inquired about their situation. Three students returned from France on a charter flight, the rest decided to stay where they were and continue their education.
UFAZ classes would usually end by early May in previous years. This year, however, the semester was extended until May 17 due to the difficulties of distance learning.
The exam session will start on June 16 and last two weeks. Those who do not have the opportunity to take the online exams will be given a second chance to take the exams scheduled for September.
It should be noted that online classes do not replace face-to-face classes for engineers. One of the main goals of UFAZ is to apply theoretical knowledge in practice. Therefore, we wish all students successes in their examinations and hope to meet them in UFAZ classes next semester.