It has now become known that several countries have closed schools for an indefinite period to combat the spread of coronavirus. This topic has become relevant in Latvia as well and there is a possibility that schools may be closed after the forthcoming school holidays. In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure the continuity of the education process, rather than postpone it for a later period, which is especially important, for example, for 12th grade students who are preparing to apply to foreign universities.
Is our technology ready to ensure a nation-wide distance education process?
We – the members of the industry – are fully prepared. There are several distance learning schools successfully operating in Latvia, the largest being Riga 1st Distance Learning Secondary School, which offers education programmes according to the education standard requirements. In the learning process, the secondary school uses digital study materials – streaming study videos to students in an online environment, online consultations with the teachers, the option to complete and deliver assignments and pass examinations remotely.
Telia Latvija can confirm that the internet and streaming capacity in Latvia is sufficient. The Telia Latvija media service team has been developing and offering its video streaming platform for 10 years now, and it is designed not only for media and businesses, but also for education institutions to stream, process and store video content. Our technology supports a very high number of simultaneous viewers of live and recorded video content.
What are the options? Where to start?
First of all, make the decision. If schools eventually are closed, be prepared. Secondly, do not put local governments or schools in charge of technological implementation. Yes, there are many excellent and modern education institutions in Latvia that may be able to implement this, but there are as many small schools and municipalities with limited technological capacity! The technological implementation of the distance education process should be centralised.
It is recommended to take advantage of the already existing distance learning practices in Latvia. Gita Vāvere, Director of the Riga 1st Distance Learning Secondary School: “We are prepared to assist the state. For a number of years, we have been successfully organising the learning process by video and this solution is a fully featured alternative to classroom studies for persons who are unable to attend personally for any reason. The technological solutions we use are up-to-date and scalable, meaning that in the case of applicable requirements we can ensure the distance learning process for all secondary school students in Latvia – all that is required is a decision, initiative and a comprehensive outlook.” (Read more about Telia Solutions for Media used by Riga 1st Distance Learning Secondary School here: For the sixth year Telia has been successfully providing remote access to curriculum content for Riga 1st distance education high school’s students)
An innovative way to ensure the delivery of learning content to students during crisis and school closures that is not yet common across the world, is through the creation of learning TV channels. For example, 12 TV channels – for grades 1 through 12. Each channel would present and broadcast content according to the education standard requirements and each individual school would be responsible for sending out and processing assignments and examinations using the existing digital education tools – such as e-klase.lv, mykoob.lv. Learning TV channels would be distributed via terrestrial broadcasting and cable services. Gatis Gailis, Chairman of Veset, the Latvian company known globally for its TV channel creation and broadcasting solution, says: “We are also prepared to lend a helping hand to the state. We expect active steps from the Ministry of Education and Science to ensure the distance learning process. The technology should not be avoided, it should be instead embraced because it is neither complicated, nor expensive – it is all relative. In a time of crisis, the state should act and approach its digital sector businesses to engage them in resolving the problem.”
“No matter how complex the task, we and our digital industry partners are confident that we can handle it,” says Mārtiņš Paurs, Commercial Director of Telia Latvija. “We have long-term cooperation experience not only with the television, entertainment and conferencing industry, but also with the education and distance learning sector, providing technology that enables video content to be used in the learning process. So far in Latvia, this branch has developed more slowly than in other countries, but it can be expected that, as a result of the current crisis, demand for distance learning will grow globally. We are prepared to offer our international experience and help Latvia create a competitive distance education system platform.”