Navigating uncertain times

During the past weeks, the coronavirus has cast an uncertainty over everyday life across the whole world. Unlike in most previous occasions of disruption, where the uncertainty has been more geographically limited, this time Gradia and its’ partners all over the world have been “in the same boat”, dealing with very similar issues and challenges. Therefore, maybe some of the solutions can also be the same?

GBS St. Gallen from Switzerland and Gradia have a long history of cooperation including working together in innoVET network on digitalisation of learning, teaching and processes. Daniel Kehl, Principal of GBS St. Gallen and Karin Haltner from their International Office report that their college was closed on 16 March and they have all been working from home since then. In general working and studying remotely seems to be progressing very well thanks to various digital tools, such as Teams, Skype and WhatsApp.

 The switch to distance learning was done in two phases, says Daniel Kehl. Phase 1 or the preparation phase took place over five days between 16- 20 March. Phase 2 or the actual implementation started on 23 March and is still ongoing. “The whole process went amazingly well. Both the teachers and the apprentices were very well prepared and highly motivated. A big challenge for some teachers was to have to make up for the lack of digital know-how in a very short time.” The speed of switching to distance learning and lack of “physical”, personal contact were also complicating factors. They also soon noticed that preparing online lessons is very time-consuming .

According to Principal Kehl, GBS St. Gallen was relatively ready to make the jump into the world of distance learning and teaching. “The fact that we are in the middle of the process of changing our classes to “digital classes” (bring your own device) we were actually pretty well prepared. However, we were really surprised at the speed of implementation. But everyone pulled together and helped each other to solve problems and challenges.”

There’s a strong feeling in GBS St. Gallen that this experience will permanently change the way in which the college operates. “We understand more about various e-learning tools. The way in which we teach may be more varied and therefore, the learning experiences will also more enriched.” Once they return back to the college, there is a plan to prepare a survey to find out what kind of permanent changes the staff and students want to implement.

Like everyone else, unfortunately GBS St. Gallen had to cancel or postpone all planned international mobility activities with immediate effect. “We are very much hoping that there will be no long-term impact on our international mobility.” In the meanwhile, GBS St. Gallen wants to continue the work started within innoVET network and share their experiences in distance learning with their partners abroad.

Although transitioning to remote working has gone surprisingly well, the social aspects of working life are difficult to transfer to the digital world. “I feel it’s unfortunate that due to the social distancing the interpersonal part of working life is somewhat lacking but we try to compensate this with online coffee breaks or aperitifs”, Karin Haltner says. “The Swiss Federal Council decided last week that the college may be reopened on 8 June, but let’s see what happens….”

More information about innoVET network

and Jaana Virtanen (at)

GBS St. Gallen


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