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ELIA Members' Response to COVID-19

16 April 2020

During these last few weeks, ELIA members shared their experiences of how they responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and their wishes going forward, by completing a member survey. We would like to thank all those who participated for their valuable contributions. The ELIA Representative Board also dedicated part of their online meeting on 1 April to discuss issues and best practices in coping with stringent new measures.

The ELIA team have put together an overview of the results from these two exchanges, which reflect how ELIA members have been handling the situation in Europe and beyond. Most importantly, this input is being used to identify how we as a community can support each other, and what the ELIA team can do to best serve its members at this challenging time.

The impact of coronavirus – ELIA member survey was open for responses from 18 March - 6 April. We received 46 responses, mostly from European members (see figure 1 for geographical spread).

Fig. 1
Almost all respondents (46 out of 48) indicated that higher education institutions in their country had closed their buildings, mainly due to mandatory national government requirements. A lot of unclarity exists about when to expect higher education institutions to reopen their doors. Two thirds of members who filled out our survey, mentioned not knowing when institutions would be able to reopen, institutions being closed until further notice, or had some reserve regarding predicted dates. Almost half of the members indicated possible reopening dates in April. However, the latest policy developments would indicate that in many countries reopening will not be possible this month. 

The survey also shows that a majority of ELIA members are already offering digital courses.  Two thirds indicate a complete switch to digital (for all courses and all students), others have digital courses partially available, or do not yet offer digital education but are actively working on it (see figure 2) It’s not surprising, that most higher arts education (HAE) staff are continuing their work from home. Over a third of members did indicate that there are some exceptions of staff members who are continuing to work on location.  

An online roundtable session with the ELIA representative board also confirmed this data, which shows how incredibly quickly higher art education institutions and their staff members have adapted to the move to ‘emergency digital education’.

Fig. 2

Challenges of Digital Teaching and Learning

Input from the ELIA Board meeting and from the survey raised a number of key challenges:

Providing students with fair, high-quality, digital assessment
Exams are an important part of higher education and this issue applies to all stages, including entrance exams, graduation shows and doctoral defences. On location exams and showcases are impossible to host for most institutions at the moment.

Teaching courses that require studio time and/or workshops, virtually
In practice, some courses seem to be more difficult to digitalise than others. Especially courses requiring expensive tools and materials, heavy machinery or physical contact in the performing arts are problematic.
Guaranteeing accessibility of digital/online education
This is applicable both to students with no access to basis digital tools (laptops, internet) and those needing to use specific software that is not available for them outside of their education institution.

Ensuring health and wellbeing of students and staff
Particular concern was expressed regarding students’ psychological and financial wellbeing. International students seem to have been hit particularly hard by the crisis, some isolated in buildings which have otherwise been vacated by others returning to their families. The general health concerns apply to teachers as well, who are taking on a large increase in workload.
Rethinking internationalisation

There are some practical short-term concerns regarding students currently on exchange. Higher arts education institutions are trying to figure out how to embody an international perspective while mobility is temporarily blocked.
Being ahead of the long-term consequences of the pandemic

The long-term financial consequences of the pandemic are uncertain. At the moment, the financial impact on members is influenced by local and institutional contexts. HAE after the pandemic will also have to deal with social and cultural consequences, and with the key question: what will the future of e-learning look like? 

Next Steps for ELIA  

The survey responses and the Board Meeting conversation highlight the need and wish of the ELIA community to share experiences and exchange best practices. In the survey ELIA members supported plans to create online meetings focusing on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results also reflect a wish to share tools and resources for online teaching and learning, and using webinars as a platform for knowledge dissemination.

As we enter the next phase of response to coronavirus, the ELIA team are developing a strategy which will meet these requests. We are currently gathering examples of best practices from ELIA members via our open call. Submissions will be shared shortly across channels. The next ELIA online event Virtual PIE, will delve specifically into the challenges concerning internationalisation. You may also be interested in our list of Online Tools for Working Remotely and the ELIA April Advocacy Update, contains the latest news regarding funding and COVID-19 measures on European level.

Find out more about our upcoming online events and join the conversation.


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