Aleksei Yu. Strelkov
Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University, Vladivostok
Abstract: COVID-19 pandemic resulted in shutdowns in education and training, disrupting the pre-scheduled classroom studies, face-to-face instruction, etc. Maritime English teachers and learners had to abruptly switch modes of teaching / learning which presented a great challenge for MET providers, cadets, University administration and IT personnel and caused psychological stresses. The paper is aimed at considering the challenges, the ways Maritime English teachers and learners responded as exemplified by the Admiral Nevelskoi Maritime State University. Experiences in online teaching / learning and estimation of these by language teachers have been covered. Successes and failures, as well as their reasons, have been considered. The assumption that it is the blended mode of teaching and learning Maritime English that will be predominant from now on has been made, thus necessitating maintenance of the acquired skills and abilities for distance learning and continuous working on these.
Keywords: Maritime education and training (MET), Maritime English, communicative approach, offline, online, blended teaching and learning
Maritime education and training (MET) system, like the whole of the maritime industry has faced a major challenge within the span of the previous year (and, actually, part of this year as well) called COVID-19 pandemic. Forced shutdowns in education and training, disrupting the pre-scheduled classroom studies, face-to-face instruction, delivering lectures, practical studies and on board practical training have been experienced throughout the world. The problems that MET system encountered in connection with the pandemic have been given some consideration on the part of the MET providers’ community. This can be exemplified by the IAMU Webinar MET during the COVID-19, held on 13 and 14 January 2021, attended by over 120 participants including non-member organizations. It should be noted that there were some preparatory steps taken by the IAMU Regional Representative of Asia, Pacific and Oceania President of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) VADM Eduardo Ma R Santos and Dr Angelica Baylon, Director of MAAP External Relations Office in the format of an online catch-up meeting for benchmarking the regional institutions’ standings. The IAMU webinar consisted of two main parts, the presentations by panelists on the 1st day and the panel discussions and the introduction of the Maritime Education and Training Question Repository (METQR) on the 2nd day. Topics discussed covered the choice of the teaching / learning scenario in times like pandemic, difference between well-planned online learning experiences and courses offered online in response to a crisis or disaster, lack of communication (from a student’s point of view), practical training under the restrictions caused by the pandemic, the so called new ‘normal’ in teaching simulator based courses to seafarers, matters of onboard training under the circumstances. There were many proposals to count certain amount of simulator-based training as real sea time as required by STCW 1978, as amended, for a candidate to be eligible for a Certificate of Competence issuance. A post webinar survey revealed that the webinar was an excellent tool for large scale communication among IAMU member institutions, so next IAMU webinars and online conferences would be desirable. The respondents would like to see the following topics focused on in future webinars: emphasis more on the proper student assessment tools & standards under COVID, new methods for the implementation of new practices, how to help both instructors and students to adapt to the ‘new normal’, how to enhance competences of digital leadership and safety charisma for MET students. Following COVID-19 experiences the respondents would recommend to pay more attention to soft skills development and ensuring mental wellness, maintain acquired skills and abilities for distance learning and keep working on them for potential future crisis, use of “apps” for delivering the theoretical knowledge using e-learning and artificial intelligence.  The feedback is not, of course, language training focused, but seems to be of relevance to the Maritime English providers and students as well.
It is understood that one should differentiate between E-learning as experiences that are planned from the beginning and designed to be online from Emergency remote teaching that is defined as “temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances”.  This paper aims at considering the latter, as even in late winter 2020 no one at the Maritime State University could have imagined that face-to-face classes would stop, cadets would be dismissed from the campus and teachers would be urged to find feasible solutions to provide teaching and training under the crisis circumstances, in an attempt to make some conclusions for the sake of foreseeing ways of teaching / learning Maritime English in future. When looking at the experience gained and (who knows?) anticipating the same in future it’s worth considering the following issues:
- Methodological problems, as a lot of time was spent by teachers on them.
- Lack of knowledge about IT tools which can be helpful in teaching / learning process.
- Lack of necessary equipment, troubles with access to the Internet, etc.
- Extra time required by different actors (IT department staff / teachers / students) to configure accounts, platforms, prepare instructions, etc.
- Much more bureaucracy, especially at the first stage of pandemic.
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