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Centre Sèvres (Paris).

Fr. Étienne Grieu sj, President of the Centre Sèvres (Jesuit Faculty of Paris), testifies of how students and lecturers quickly adapted to the confinement to continue following and giving their teachings.

Mid-March: when the containment measures came into force - among them the closure of the universities - we were ready. On the previous Saturday, teachers had gathered at the Centre Sèvres for a reduced version of what should have been a working weekend. During this meeting, under the leadership of Patrick GOUJON sj and Alain GOYE, we set up distance learning via Zoom and Moodle and practiced the use of Zoom, which allows group video-conferencing.

The policy we adopted was the following:

  1. to pay more attention to the personal accompaniment of the students (tutoring) so that no one is "left out in the wilderness". With special attention to more isolated students;
  2. use Zoom for teaching that requires a lot of interactivity (seminars, workshops, tutorials);
  3. use Moodle for lectures: Moodle is a digital platform that allows the teacher to post, for example, his or her lecture notes as well as complementary or illustrative texts or documents.

Almost all of the teaching that had begun could thus be completed in this way. On the other hand, the few courses that were supposed to start during the period of confinement had to be cancelled or postponed to the next academic year.

All in all, the students continued to work more or less normally. Of course, a seminar on Zoom is not quite the same as a "face-to-face" session, because the body really plays a role in the development of intelligence, especially through all the subtle perceptions it allows: eye play, breathing, overall posture, signs of fatigue or repeated presence, etc...

The exams also took place at a distance. This requires awareness that questioning someone via a screen is not quite the same thing as having them in front of you. We had to pay extra attention to understand and welcome each other.

What about the free listeners at the Centre Sèvres? Generally older, they are not necessarily very familiar with tools like Moodle. They are the ones who are likely to have suffered the most from this temporary closure. To keep in touch with them, we have set up a weekly Newsletter during the eight weeks of the confinement. It has been very well attended. Many listeners were able to discover the wealth of information we have at our disposal: recorded lectures, evening debates on this or that issue, and texts from our teachers. We hope to see those familiar faces from the Centre Sèvres again!

The revival, precisely, what will it look like? We are preparing for different scenarios and are ready to reorganize ourselves if health standards remain drastic for the reception of the public.

All in all: the year has been turned upside down. Teachers have shown remarkable adaptability; and this crisis has made us take a step forward in mastering digital tools!

Étienne Grieu,
President Centre Sèvres, Paris

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