Officially inaugurated in 1994, CEU San Pablo University has become an educational benchmark in Spain. How would you describe its mission and vision?
CEU is an educational group that covers all levels, from kindergarten to university. We are one of the Asociación Católica de Propagandistas projects. Therefore, our mission is to educate people as comprehensively as possible, both in a human and professional way. We want to train them in the values of the Christian spirit. Our vision is to remain a pioneer in education and adapt to the changing needs of the world.
The education sector was one of those that had to adapt the fastest to the pandemic. In your case, in just 48 hours you moved the teaching model online. What was that process like?
The key was anticipation. Digital transformation already formed part of our strategic plan a few years ago. In fact, two years ago we created a vice-rectorate for digital transformation, and that has been the key. When the pandemic started, we realized we were extremely well prepared, which is why we were able to move from fully face-to-face university services and teaching to doing everything online. We had an online platform that we used only in a complementary way, essentially as a content repository. That then became a teaching platform, where students were able to connect to listen to their classes. In 2021, we installed a system of digital screens, cameras, and microphones to offer students who were connected via the internet the experience of being in the classroom. In this way, the teacher is able to interact with the students in the classroom as well as those at home. We also generated an app so that anyone who was infected or had symptoms could communicate this to the university. Therefore, we could permit them to only attend classes virtually. For those students outside of Spain and that could not attend live classes due to time differences, all classes were recorded so that they could watch them at a more suitable time. We wanted to offer assurance to students that classes would continue and that they would not miss out on anything.
A report estimates that 60% of those who take an online degree drop out, while only 27% do so in an onsite model. What are your thoughts on this?
It is more difficult to maintain motivation in an online course. It also depends on the audience: an 18-year-old student is more difficult to motivate in online mode, while an older student, who has already taken another degree perhaps does not require as much motivation from the university. We like to do things face-to-face. We have incorporated all the technology that allows us to give online classes, though by vocation, we are a face-to-face university. Being on campus in person is part of the experience we offer our students because going to college is not just about going to classes. It is a place to interact with classmates, professors, and with university staff. It is a place to attend cultural activities, meet people, or share hobbies. In addition, we have many students from other countries, and this offers other students a multicultural environment. We must work to break down the barrier between face-to-face and digital, where everything has its own space. In this sense, when we return to face-to-face teaching as we knew it before, all the technologies that we have incorporated must continue to enrich our courses. We have also made programs during this course of “Professionals in the classroom," which we will reinforce next year. This allows us to contact professionals in their work environment and offer students a masterclass. We will continue to work on these ideas to take advantage of these digital resources and improve our university's teaching methods.