This year, Tallinn Summer School will be held in a reduced format. There will be eight courses, which is three times less than usual. The longest of them will last two weeks. Participants will be able to learn how to write and illustrate comic books, how to use robots for learning and how to understand social entrepreneurship. As per tradition, Estonian language classes will also be taught.
There are around 120 participants in Tallinn Summer School. They represent 29 countries. The majority of participants are from Estonia, Russia, Germany and Hong-Kong. They are mostly university students.
Tallinn University’s Tallinn Summer and Winter School Project Manager Birgit Kirsimägi notes that a virtual summer school is a new experience for everyone, and the decision to go virtual was only made after communicating at length with colleagues from other European Member States.
"Most of them also decided in favour of virtual summer schools," says Kirsimägi, "and that gave us the courage to follow the same path. We also asked the opinion of those who have registered for the summer school, and they gave us hope that there would be demand for online courses." She adds that virtual summer schools will also be held in Norway, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands.
Online courses will take place in real time. Most teachers use the Zoom environment, which they have been using during the spring quarantine. This allows students to actively participate in the course and perform group tasks. One course, ‘Educational Robotics in Preschool and Primary Education’ will welcome foreign students who have stayed in Estonia for the summer, and half of those Estonian participants who have a background in preschool education will attend Tallinn University's EDUSPACE laboratory. In addition, participants from many foreign countries can also take the courses via Zoom.
According to one of the course organisers, Tallinn University's Early-Stage Researcher for the School of Educational Sciences, Janika Leoste, combined learning – where some students are physically present in the laboratory and others are learning in their homes through electronic devices – will make it difficult to integrate distance learners into a common learning space and make them feel like part of a team with other students. To achieve the feeling of teamwork, the team leading the course will rely on good camera work and group projects with plenty of feedback.
"What makes this course especially interesting," says Leoste, "is that in order to test the playful activities created for the robots by students, children in both Estonia and Spain will come to the labs. This is our first time using this format, and we are eagerly awaiting its results."
Birgit Kirsimägi confirms that selecting a suitable time was an important part of planning the courses. Since most of the students are from Europe and Asia, a time convenient for them was chosen – morning for Europe and evening for Asia. It is inevitable that no single time will be suitable for everyone around the world, so the few participants from the USA will have to study in the middle of the night.
In addition to coursework, Tallinn Summer School also offers online gatherings, where participants can take part in quizzes and get to know each other.
Tallinn Summer School will not take place in its usual capacity due to the global coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the summer school had 25 courses and 430 participants. When planning the summer school's 15th jubilee, the expected number of participants was around 400. According to Kirsimägi, many interested parties decided not to attend the summer school because in addition to courses, the culture programme and communication with other participants are integral parts of the summer school. Luckily, however, there were also those who agreed to participate online. "We hope that next summer we can celebrate our jubilee with more grandeur," says Birgit Kirsimägi.
Tallinn Summer School takes place from 12 – 31 July. All courses are held in English. Courses that start on 20 or 27 July are still accepting participants. Additional information and all courses https://summerschool.tlu.ee/