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The Salesian College of India and the Salesian University of Bolivia in the context of the pandemic

Prof. Dr. George Thadathil, SDB
Rector,
Salesian College, Sonada and Siliguri
E-mail: geothadathil@yahoo.com.au

Ms Yadika Prasad, MCA
Assistant Professor, 
Salesian College, Siliguri Campus
E-mail: yadikaprasad@gmail.com

M.Sc. Willy W. Chambi Z.
Director of Planning, 
Salesiana University of Bolivia
E-mail: willy.chambi@usalesiana.edu.bo

Lic. Érika Gabriela Rojas Silva
Career Director, 
Salesian University of Bolivia
E-mail: erika.rojas@usalesiana.edu.bo

Abstract

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has forced educational institutions to close doors in an attempt to contain the spread of the infection. However, education did not stop, it instead found the opportunity to change face-to-face classes to virtual format, and enter to a new paradigm in education. At the same time, this migration from face-to-face to virtual has brought challenges to higher education institutions around the world, among them, the Salesian institutions of higher learning. The Salesian mission around the world is to promote and open access to higher education especially for young people with economic and social disadvantages; in this context, the challenges for providing virtual education are greater and require additional efforts to ensure success and continuity in higher education. This study aims to describe the experiences of the Salesian College of India and the Salesian University of Bolivia in the context of the pandemic. Although the Salesian College and USB are geographically located on two different continents, they have both been affected by the pandemic and have faced similar challenges in ensuring the continuity of higher education. At the same time, this situation raises challenges in terms of the management software used in teaching, Internet access and the availability of devices among students.


Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, higher education, online learning, Salesian education

Introduction

This study is an initiative that was born in this particular context of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Salesian University of Bolivia and the Salesian College of India were affected, like all higher education institutions in the world, by the closure of face-to-face classes to avoid contagion among the members of their communities, therefore, forced to migrate to the educational format mediated by technological and virtual tools. Although this modality of education originally meant an obvious response to the closure of educational institutions, the initial challenges were great: Among them, the speed and access to attempts, accessibility to types of devices to attend classes and prepare tasks, familiarity and management of desktop software, access to resources and on-line content and the initial complexity of virtual learning platforms.

This study attempts a description of how these challenges were present in the change from the traditional educational modality to a virtual one, presenting quantitative data collected through surveys of the students themselves and educational experience in a sui generis context. A peculiarity of this study focuses on the comparability of two geographically distant institutions - the Salesian College located in the north of India and the Salesian University of Bolivia in the heart of South America. However, despite the obvious geographical distance, both institutions share the Salesian charism of Don Bosco, an educational charism widely spread throughout the world and known for its mission of providing education with a predilection for young people, especially those less favored.

The authors of this study considered that a comparative work on how both institutions faced change and their challenges from face-to-face classes to virtual classes would be a way to contribute to the reflection of the educational realities experienced by two geographically distant, but charismatically equal institutions.

Background of both institutions

The Salesian University of Bolivia (USB) and the Salesian College of India are two higher education institutions belonging to the Salesians of Don Bosco. Although both are geographically distant and in two different continents, share the Salesian charism of Don Bosco and mission: "promote the integral development of the young through assimilation and critical elaboration of culture and through education in the faith, you look to the Christian transformation of society” (Salesians of Don Bosco, 2015, p. 122) ; Likewise, both belong to the worldwide network of Salesian Institutions of Higher Education (IUS).

The USB is a higher education institution founded in 1998 by the Salesians of Don Bosco, with the aim of providing access to higher education to those sectors of the Bolivian population that did not have the possibility of entering public universities due to the limitation of their quotas, nor to other private universities due to the high costs they established. In the management 2020, the USB has around seven thousand students in undergraduate studies and another thousand in postgraduate programs. Its headquarters are located in the city of La Paz and it has six branches authorized by the Ministry of Education in the cities of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cochabamba, Camiri, Monteagudo, San Carlos-Yapacaní and Yacuiba. The geographical location of the USB responds fully to the Constitutions of the Salesians of Don Bosco, which determines the Salesian centers are located in popular sectors; thus, the Salesian presence in higher education seeks to be a response for the less favored people of the popular sectors of Bolivian society.

Among the main characteristics of the profile of USB students, it is highlighted that 72% of them are first-generation students, which means that neither the father nor the mother have completed university studies. Another important aspect to highlight is the geographical location of households from which students come; for example, at its Headquarters, 87% of the students come from the four poorest districts of the municipality of La Paz. Another feature is related to the occupation of parents, 50% of mothers have a related occupation with washing, toilet, services, housewife or similar and, on the other hand, 60% of the male parents work as a skilled worker, taxi driver, micro-entrepreneur, salesperson, unskilled worker, or similar (Chambi and Murillo, 2018).

Its current Rector is Fr. (PhD.) Juan Pablo Zabala sdb, who from the beginning of his administration in September 2016 began a series of transformations along with the strengthening and consolidation of the academic programs and other fundamental tasks of the USB.

For its part, the Salesian College of India is an institution of Higher Education founded in 1933, has two campuses, one in Siliguri and the other in Sonada, West Bengal. It holds a grade of "Accreditation A", awarded by the National Assessment and Accreditation of India (NAAC) and twice certified as a college with potential for excellence. The Fr. (PhD.) George Thadathil sdb is the Rector (Salesian College, 2020).

The Salesian College has a rich history and legacy associated with its founding. This was recently documented in the book entitled “Salesian College - a history that speaks today". It tells that the Salesian College was established in Shillong in 1933, but in 1938 it moved to Sonada. It gradually grew to fill the role of a premier educational institute serving the needs of students in the hills and surrounding areas, opening undergraduate courses in commerce, humanities, and other professional programs. In 2009, the College established its expanded campus in the town of Siliguri, which is located at the foot of the hills, about thirty miles from the main campus. This campus of rapid expansion offers undergraduate courses in commerce, humanities, and sciences with professional and vocational courses. Starting in 2016, the College has also started offering postgraduate courses in English, Education, and Psychology. This campus is primarily aimed at students from Siliguri, other parts of North Bengal, and neighboring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

The demographic profile of Salesian College is quite diverse in many parameters. We serve around 1500 students from different financial backgrounds. It is important to note that a comparable number of our students are first generation students, their families hail from hill towns in the surrounding region. The economic environment of several of these students varies from poor on average. Many students from tribal backgrounds and the Doaars region also study here, having different financial backgrounds. Being a minority institution, Salesian College offers underprivileged students a quality education. Capable and talented students, lacking financial resources, find here the opportunity to grow and learn.

The migration from classroom to virtual teaching

As a consequence of the pandemic that has characterized the 2020 administration, countries around the world have taken the necessary health measures in order to protect their societies from massive contagion. Some countries declared states of health emergency translated into curfews, confinements, social distancing, and suspension of mass acts. According to a report by the World Bank Group (2020), the COVID-19 pandemic would have at least two significant impacts: “i) the closure of schools almost in the entire world and ii) the economic recession that ensues. It produces measures which aimed at controlling the pandemic. These two impacts, the report continues, can have both short and long term consequences, both on human capital and well-being. In the short term, a reduction in learning is expected with an increase in dropouts, as well as the impact on the nutritional, mental and physical health of students, especially those who live in unfavorable socio-economic conditions (World Bank Group, 2020).

In this context, educational institutions were among the first to be affected as a measure to prevent contagion, given the need for social distancing and the prohibition of massive activities and in closed environments. "Almost overnight, schools and universities around the world closed their doors, affecting 1.57 billion students in 191 countries" (IESALC, 2020, p. 5). The impact was not minor and educational institutions were faced with the challenge of taking measures that give continuity to the training of their students. In the case of higher education institutions, the suspension of face-to-face classes meant an inevitable migration to the educational format mediated by technological and virtual tools, this response was almost immediate; However, the immediacy, the limited experience and the wide digital and technological gap exposed the disadvantages and latent social inequalities in the different countries, much more acute in developing or less industrialized countries, where the levels of connectivity are scarce or null, and access to devices such as cell phones or computers are still a secondary or tertiary need in the set of basic survival needs.

Against this background, Institute for Higher Education of Latin America and the Caribbean, (IESALC, acronym in spanish, 2020) raised some challenges that higher education institutions must inevitably address: On the one hand, this crisis is a clear call for universities to be at the forefront of the necessary transformations, which means looking for the appropriate mechanisms to give continuity to training despite the adverse situation; on the other hand, the new panorama forces to ensure the right to higher education in a framework of equal opportunities and not to leave any student behind. A task that is not easy to tackle, especially in realities where the digital and technological divide is acute and resources are limited.

This new context or new panorama as IESALC calls it, forced countries and institutions to take actions to ensure the continuity of pedagogical training. IESALC as international institution above mentioned, that warned potential risks and challenges in times of pandemic generated a series of guidelines for institutions of higher education take on the challenge of being at the forefront of the necessary changes and ensure no waste to education. Thus, both the Salesian College and the Salesian University of Bolivia, had to face the challenge and take action before the closure of their facilities due to the health emergency, opening an opportunity for migration to the educational format mediated by virtual and technological tools.

In the following paragraphs, it is described in a very general way how the Salesian College and the Salesian University of Bolivia addressed the migration of their face-to-face courses to virtual platforms, based on the confinement announced by the governments of both countries.

From confinement declared by the Government of India on March 14 this year, the first three months of teaching virtual at the Salesian College has insisted that teachers and students are on the same platform of the College, LMS Moodle, this had their own video platform BBB (Big Blue Button, for its acronym in English), which is necessarily used at the beginning. In addition to videoconferencing, the Moodle platform offered other activities for the design of the courses; therefore, the College administration insisted that everyone familiarize themselves with the platform. However, connection issues for a large percentage of their students prevented easy access to BBB and if for some reason they were disconnected due to poor connectivity or other reason, reconnecting to the system was very tedious, because they had to at least perform three steps to reconnecting to the class. To overcome this difficulty, in the last month, the College has subscribed to GSuite, it offers, among others, videoconferences online through Google Meet. The lectures are being recorded and the links are published in the LMS (Learning Management System) for the purpose of designing courses and teaching records, which can be viewed again by students.

In Bolivia, the government decreed a national health emergency on March 12; consequently, face-to-face educational activities were suspended. An instruction from the Ministry of Education opened the possibility of virtually continuing educational work in institutions that have the necessary means. The USB decided to enter to online format by taking advantage of the license of the MS TEAMS platform, whose use until that moment was occasional and scarce. Given that the interruption of the face-to-face classes was abrupt, reestablishing contact with the students was an intense task, but with the help of the course representatives and their own organization through their WhatsApp groups it was possible to communicate the determination of the continuity of their studies. Another important task was the organization of training sessions for teachers in the management of the TEAMS Platform. As for the students, we initially had the idea that their assimilation of the TEAMS management would be intuitive, but that idea was not completely correct and difficulties were identified in their new learning environment. Although these difficulties could be overcome with the accompaniment of teachers and career directors, the biggest problem was the availability of devices and the high costs of internet connection. An alternative to help the students was to record the classes and send them by WhatsApp.

Methodology

The objective of this study is to understand how the Salesian College of India and the Salesian University of Bolivia reacted to the pandemic and how they managed to give continuity to education based on the virtual tools available, identifying challenges in the use of management software of learning, internet access and device availability among students and their impact on both institutions. The methodological design of this study is quantitative, which according to De Pelekais (2000) seeks to “Explain and predict and/or control phenomena through a numerical data collection approach” (p. 349). This type of study allows the collection of data through surveys, which can be presented in pie charts. Thus, the present study has a quantitative design, since it sought to explain the phenomenon of the change from classroom to virtual education in the context of the pandemic. Likewise, information was collected through a survey designed to learn about internet connectivity, device accessibility, software management and access to online resources. The information collected is presented in pie charts, together with the interpretation of the data.

The surveys applied to students from both institutions are not exactly the same, given that due to the difference in contexts, there were in some respects the approaches to using virtual applications and the types of connection between the study populations.

For data collection on the USB, virtual surveys were used at the beginning of September, using the Forms platform. The survey had twelve questions aimed at learning about digital capabilities. By that time, the students already had several months of experience using the platform. The number of students surveyed for this study was 433, which represents 7% of the student population of the USB, La Paz Headquarters.

At Salesian College, the study population was students from all courses on its Sonada and Siliguri campuses. E  link to the online survey circulated in all groups of students by teachers of the institution. The data was collected over a month, from June 21 to July 21, 2020. During this time, students were already in online mode and using Moodle for almost 4 months. The questionnaire consisted of ten questions related to e-learning requirements and student access to the needs to access the LMS. 455 complete responses were collected. However, 452 were applied because the rest were incomplete or completed by mistake. MS Excel was used to obtain the data for the research.

Result

The results found in this study are presented below. Although these are presented separately by each institution, due to the explanations given in the previous section, the results are comparatively analyzed in the conclusions chapter. Given this clarification, the graphs of the results found are presented below.

Result found in the Salesian University of Bolivia

At the end of the application of the surveys and their corresponding tabulation, the following results can be seen on the USB:

Graphic Nº 1: Internet connectivity for USB students

According to these results, 55% of students access the internet through the purchase of data from their mobile phone. This data coincides with the concern of the students, who at the beginning of the pandemic expressed concern about the difficulty of purchasing data to attend classes, mainly due to the cost, given that Bolivia has one of the most expensive internet services in the region. In addition to the cost, there is the connection speed, another result of the survey indicates that 64.9% of the students perceive that their internet connection is "Very Slow" or "Slow" and only 35.1% consider their connection Enter “Very fast” or “Fast”. These initial problems, of connection and connection speed, generated the creativity and flexibility of the career directors and their teachers, who had to look for alternatives to support the students to overcome these barriers; for example, recording classes to share them, share video or audios through WhatsApp. On the other side of this scenario, we have 40% of students who declared fixed internet connection, which means that particularly for this group of student’s access to classes was not a difficulty. Finally, the survey results also indicate that some students agreed to inter net from their labor sources and a smaller group mentioned that connected to internet through a family member, friend or neighbor.

Another interesting result to analyze is in the use and familiarity with learning platforms. At the beginning of the migration from face-to-face classes to virtual classes, USB had to enter into an abrupt process of preparation and training for both students and teachers in the use of the TEAMS platform.

Graph Nº 2: Familiarity with learning platforms

At the time of the survey, 77% of the students say they are familiar with the TEAMS and Moodle learning platforms. This percentage would surely be very small if the survey had been applied before the start of virtual classes, after five months of virtual education and also the training processes offered by USB through their career directions. An interesting data is in the 19% of students who, in addition to being familiar with TEAMS, consider Zoom, WhatsApp, Google Meet, Telegram and GoToMeeting as learning platforms, when in reality those applications are for messaging or for simply conferences. Finally, there is 4% who declare not having familiarity with learning platforms, possibly they are students who are in the stage of preparing their final project for graduation.

Regarding study devices and internet connection, 78% of USB students connect to their classes through a mobile phone. This is a characteristic that generates another study difficulty, because the characteristics of mobile phones do not generally support the functionality of TEAMS, as well as the visibility of teachers' presentations and the difficulty of interaction in different windows.

Graph Nº 3: Connection and study devices

Also, only 6% of students use a desktop computer and 16% a laptop. These inequalities in the use of devices coincide with a report presented by the Institute for Higher Education of Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) in April of this year, which warned of the limitations of virtual education-based precisely on connection devices. Although it is recognized that cell phones are not particularly means designed for access to studies, for now, they have been an alternative that has allowed many students, as is the case of the USB students, to continue their studies of higher education. At the same time, the survey reveals another aspect that draws attention: 25% of the students do their homework by hand, another 25% do it through their cell phone and 43% use a laptop or desktop computer; that is to say, at least half of the students are at a disadvantage in terms of using a computer, something that as it becomes common, is also worsening the technological gaps among the less favored.

Regarding software management, 31.4% of the USB students are familiar with MS Word, Excel and Power Point, 31.9% use only Word and Power Point, 33.3 only use Word and the rest does not respond. From these results it can be seen that 96% are familiar with MS Word.

Regarding access to bibliographic resources in times of pandemic and virtual education, students declare the following, only 0.7% access bibliographic material through the USB Virtual Library, 5% only use the materials provided by teachers and more than half, 54.5%, access bibliographic material in internet searches. This result presents a challenge for the USB, because a student, when accessing information through general search engines, runs the risk of accessing materials of poor quality. Claudio Rama (2015) warns that informational competences; In other words, the competence of knowing where reliable information is obtained and how it is processed is a fundamental component in the training of students, and higher education institutions are responsible for helping to acquire this competence.

Regarding the ease/difficulty of use TEAMS platform 45% of students reported that there is either “Very hard " or "Very easy", or a neutral position between both ends. 38.8% declare that TEAMS is “Very difficult” and “Difficult” to use and 15.7% consider it to be “Very easy” and “Easy” to use. If we consider that the change from face-to-face classes to virtual classes was abrupt and without ample preparation time, these percentages could be considered acceptable, given that those who have a position of neutrality and those who consider it easy, the percentage exceeds two thirds.

If the number of hours of use of social networks is compared in contrast to the TEAMS platform, it is interesting to note that TEAMS, at least in this time of the pandemic, is more used than Facebook or YouTube; for example, almost 60% use TEAMS in three or more hours per day and 38% use it between one and two hours per day. For its part, Facebook has the following results: 64.5% of the students declare that they use Facebook between one and two hours per day and 17.9% between three, four or more hours. For YouTube, 48.5% of students used it for between one and two hours per day. Social networks like Instagram and TikTok have much lower rates of use.

Results found at Salesian College

As for the results of the survey of the Salesian College, the Graph No. 4 shows that 20% of students cannot access the Web at all; this group of students probably belongs to remote areas of the hills where connectivity the network is not available. The 54% of students relied on data from a mobile phone to access the Internet that had a limit of daily use and required an additional purchase, while 8% of students had access to broadband, 18% had access to mobile and broadband data, so the daily data limit did not apply to them.

Graph Nº 4: Internet access of students

Apart from the limited data quality, Internet speed was not very favorable, it requires students to seek area s surroundings to access a connection more stable. It was found that 66.7% of students had speed Internet "Slow" or "Very slow", they were probably areas of poor network; meanwhile, 33% of students said they had an Internet connection "Fast” or "Very fast".

Regarding access to devices, Graph Nº 5, it was observed that 68% of students used their smartphones to access their online classes, 31% used laptops or desktops and 1% did not have access to no device, these students were likely visiting the nearby internet cafe to attend their online classes. Among these, 11% of students did not have access to front cameras, 21% had access to webcams, and 68% of students used their mobile front cameras for online classes.

Graphic Nº 5: Access to devices for virtual classes

The next aspect is related to familiarity with the software, the Chart No. 6 shows that 10% of students were not familiar with any desktop application to complete and submit their tasks. In such cases, the students sent images of their written tasks at hand, or used space typing in online provided for questions in Moodle. Only 36% were familiar with MS Word, 14% with MS Excel and 29% were familiar with both. Another 21% were also familiar with MS Access. Therefore, most were familiar with the tools required to perform online tasks that were accessible on both mobile devices and desktop computers.

 Graphic No. 6: Familiarity with desktop software

There is no limit to the resources available on the Internet, but 61% of the students were not yet familiar with the online portals that provide quality study resources, as shown in Graph Nº 7. This indicates that your reliance on teacher-provided material and commonly used online content likely came from a Google search. Of those who were familiar, 21% referred only to eBlis and the rest were familiar with online platforms such as NPTEL, Wikipedia, and NDR.

 Graph Nº 7: Access to virtual bibliographic resources

When asked about the level of difficulty using the current LMS (Moodle), 7% of the students said it was easy, 59% found it moderate, 33% found it difficult to use. Once the formal training in Moodle was given for teachers, they led the students to use each type of activity; for example, a workshop, where it was expected that students corrected the responses sent by their peers. Teachers would lead in each step and similarly for other Moodle activities.

When it comes to social platforms, 8%, 69%, 39% of students spent 1 hour of time on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, respectively. While 4%, 12%, 1% passed 2 hours or more and 41%, 18% and 61% did not spend time in Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, respectively.

Looking at the time spent on online learning platforms, 5%, 38%, 39%, and 84% of students spent an hour of time on Wikipedia, EGyankosh, NPTEL, and Moodle respectively. The 6%, 1%, 3% and 7% used 2 hours or more and the 29%, 60%, 61% and 10% did not pass time in Wikipedia, EGyankosh, NPTEL and Moodle, respectively.

Discussion

  • The USB and the Salesian College are Salesian institutions of higher education that geographically are considerably distant from each other, one in South America and the other in Asia; However, the spirit of Don Bosco keep them close and united in service. This work, beyond the results presented, attempted an approach and dialogue between two Salesian communities, emphasizing the challenges and achievements in the context of the 2020 pandemic. The dialogue and communication between the four authors of this work has been enriching, fruitful and encouraging, because it has allowed us to get to know each other, listen to each other and know that despite the distance the Salesian spirit moves us and invites us to continue working for the young, especially those who are less favored.
  • The Salesian College represents one of the pioneering Salesian presences in higher education in the world, has a rich history and legacy since its founding in 1933. Its career and quality have been recognized at the level locally by the National Assessment and Accreditation of India (NAAC, its acronym in English) who gave them the degree of "accreditation" and the nomination of an institution with potential for excellence. Undoubtedly, these achievements are important to highlight, since excellence in the quality of training for the disadvantaged helps the social mobility and progress of young people in India.
  • Within few years of existence, since 1998, the USB is part of the mission of the Don Bosco Salesians in Bolivia, providing access to education for the youth of the popular classes. For the management 2020, the USB has more than seven thousand undergraduate students nationwide, with a Headquarters and six academic sub-branches. The context of the pandemic has exposed the social and economic inequalities of the USB students, but the spirit and the will to serve Bolivian youth are intact despite adversity
  • USB and the Salesian College, as described in the first pages of this manuscript, house young people with similar socioeconomic characteristics in their classrooms; for example, a good percentage of its students are first generation and from popular sectors, in the case of USB they represent 72% and in Salesian College the average student has a history of being poor. These characteristics show that the predilection for less favored young people is alive in both institutions.
  • The pandemic has exposed the marked social gaps in many parts of the world, especially in terms of access to technology and internet connection. For one thing, not all Salesian College and USB students have access to a desktop or laptop to attend classes or perform homework; On the other hand, in both institutions it was seen that almost two thirds of their student population access the internet through a mobile phone, which represents an increase in costs on the path of their professional training. The pandemic gave us the impetus to know the conditions under which our students face their studies

Conclusions

  • USB and the Salesian College have had to react abruptly to the inevitable migration from classroom to virtual classes as a result of the spread of COVID-19 infections. IESALC-UNESCO suggested that higher education institutions should be at the forefront of the necessary transformations. Thus, the Salesian University of Bolivia and the Salesian College gave a concrete response to this challenge, none of them canceled their classes, on the contrary, they immediately migrated to the education format mediated by virtual and technological tools, which allowed giving continuity in the education of their students, avoiding lag or loss of learning.
  • This context of the pandemic, initially, put at risk the continuity of the students' training; However, virtually and technological development allowed the Salesian College and the Salesian University of Bolivia to ensure the right to education, as requested by the World Bank Group and IESALC-UNESCO. Although it is true that there were difficulties and that the students inevitably made their own efforts to continue their training, the results are encouraging, although it would be very beneficial to review the statistical data related to dropout at the end of this year.
  • Such a sudden change could not be immune to issues such as difficulties in the availability of devices (computers/mobile phones), internet access, the virtual platform (LMS, Learning Management System), training for students and teachers, among others. In both institutions, although the initial difficulties were coarse, with the passage of time they were overcome or at least diminished. At this time there is continuity in higher education services and virtual education modality is being assimilated in a positive way by students and teachers.
  • One of the initial findings that were identified in both institutions is related to the speed and internet access. Interestingly, the results are quite similar, 68% of students from the Salesian College and 65.9% of students USB consider the speed of your internet connection was located on the scale of “Slow" or ”Very slow". On the other hand, the most common internet access device is the mobile phone; this was stated by 55% of the USB students and 54% of the Salesian College students.
  • Another aspect that is important in education in the present context is the accessibility to types of devices. At Salesian College, it has been identified that 31% of students have access to a desktop computer or laptop, while only 22% have access to USB in those conditions. In both institutions, the majority of students have access to a mobile phone to access their classes and to do their homework, 78% at USB and 68% at Salesian College. Another interesting finding is that both USB and Salesian College students, in the absence of a word processing device, carried out their tasks by hand, took photographs and sent them to their teachers or to the learning platform.
  • The results of familiarity management software and desktop show that almost all, 96% of USB students have familiarity with the management of MS Word and other minor percentages in handling Excel and Power Point. At Salesian College, all students reported familiarity with programs such as MS Word, Excel, and Access. These results show a generation of students very familiar with desktop software, not only at the level of a word processor, but also programs with mathematical functions and databases.
  • Regarding the access to online content at the Salesian College 61% of students were familiarized us with online quality content, similar to what was seen in the USB, where 54% of students declared access to library materials through search engines, but not on specialized pages. This is undoubtedly an aspect that must be addressed by both institutions to help students trust more in the materials provided through their bibliographic centers or quality information portals.
  • As for the MLS (Learning Management System), the Salesian College uses Moodle and the USB MS TEAMS. Most of the Salesian College students stated that Moodle had “Moderate Difficulty” or was “Difficult” to handle. For their part, 45% of the USB students declared neutrality regarding the ease / difficulty of using the TEAMS. Although the students of this generation in both institutions are present in social networks and have greater ease in handling technological devices, they express that they have difficulty in handling learning platforms.
  • A no less important element is that both Salesian institutions, geographically distant from each other, are serving students with fairly similar socio-economic profiles, which makes it possible to ensure that, at the level of the Salesian mission, they are complying with providing access to higher education young people, especially the less favored, despite the adverse context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bibliographic references

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