My experience with distance learning in Sweden

One special characteristic in spring of 2020, is that universities around the world had to do the transition from face-to-face education to distance education.

In this blog, I am going to share my “online” experience as a master student in Sweden. I will write from my perspective how I overcame the negative and take advantage of the positive of distance learning in Sweden.

Internet Access

I must admit that transition from face-to-face education to remote education was relatively easy for Swedish universities, talking about internet. I talked in a previous blog how Sweden is practically a cashless society. Well, not only that, actually the use of Internet in this country is too high. There is internet access in many parks, coffees, libraries for free.

What about university? Since the moment you register all students have access to an student email account and many free softwares online.  Also, all the bibliographic material is available online on web platforms in public and university libraries.

In that way, I appreciate that the shock in terms of internet access or material, was not hard. The Swedish university system is very friendly and well structured with digital platforms.

Screenshot of digital platform used at the University of Gothenburg.
Capture of how looks CANVAS (my university system)

Online Lectures

So the biggest and most obvious change in my master program was that the lectures  became online. The teachers recorded the presentations and uploaded to Canvas (the university system).  Also, we did some important classes and  discussions remotely using Zoom.

Powerpoint slide from a lecture fills most of the screen. The lecturer's video is at the top of the screen.
Capture of one my online classes

Group work

If you studied in Sweden one essential characteristic is group works. But How is it online? Well, in my case it didn’t change to much because, most of the time is difficult to choose a perfect time to work together. So, usually we used to have a google document or call people. Now, with everyone using  zoom, it was kind of easier because everyone felt more confident to use it,  and video calls became very normal now.

Presentation slide in a Zoom video call.
Using zoom in group

Assignments and Test

In my programme, I always need to upload  individual and group assignments via internet to the university system. That didn’t change at all (That’s why i said the transition in Sweden was super easy). However, I must say, I had less pressure on the time to do them, because due to the situation the professors have been very supportive.

The test in my programme are usually long papers. As usual I need to upload it on Canvas. In regular times, I used to have especial class for questions about the tests. That classes became online now, and also my professors add “drop in session”. The drop in session are basically a set time where the professors are always on Zoom and if you question you can enter the virtual room and then leave.

Also, we have individual assessment in a set time with our professors.

Laptop and phone on a table.
Friends of spring (Zoom, skype, and puzzle) / Photo: Camilo

Highlighting the positive

  • Recorded lectures: Sometimes if you miss a class or have an emergency you are not able to recover that “knowledge”. With the online recorded lectures I have access to the lectures all the time, and also I was able to watch it many times.
  • Digital Assistance: with the current situation many people could learn and become better in the use of IT. Leaving this experience make me left my comfort zone and try new things.
  • Be able to return to your country: Many classmates could return to their home countries and keep studying. Also that help them to save money from rent.
  • Finally I would like to say that I am very impress in how the Swedish university system could became online very quickly and with few problems.

Overcoming the negative

  • Not being able to have physical debate or sharing ideas with my classmates. International experience is important for this exchange of realities. However, I could see that it also gave many people, the freedom to express themselves better and even to “attend” classes. So I feel like I did get to know my new classmates after all.
  • Not all programs can be adapted online: Although some programs need laboratories or other factors that involve face-to-face classes. I consider that here in Sweden a balance was found, and many colleagues, although a little sad, told me that they were able to cope with this change in modality.

As I shared, my experience as a student did not change much, and since I am an Scholar  I had to stay in Sweden despite the fact that everything is now online. Of course, it is sad not to be able to share in a real way with colleagues, however I understand the current world situation. In short, I am very grateful that I am living this online experience here, in Sweden.

Do you want to know more about the university system in Sweden? I invite you to read  Emma’s blog post How is teaching and learning different in Sweden?


Written by Camilo

24 May 2020