What angry you are about homeschooling

Always trouble with the study room : Why homeschooling doesn't work properly in Berlin

Probably the best news of the day for the administrators of the learning platform “Lernraum Berlin” came from the Berlin Senate. Gradually and subject to the development of the infection, Berlin's schools are to reopen from January 11th.

First in half the strength in the final grades, then in grades 1 to 3, later for grades 4 to 6 and finally according to the step-by-step plan for all students. Why this relieves the experts who were working under high pressure on problem solving after the renewed collapse of the learning room on Monday: Because the pressure on the learning room decreases with every child returning to analogue lessons.

The state's own learning platform currently has around 110,000 registered users. It is intended that the software for conducting video conferences or exchanging teaching materials will reach even more users. Alone: ​​The reputation of the platform, which was launched early in 2005, has suffered so much due to its regular breakdowns that a comprehensive introduction hardly seems possible.

If you ask around about the status of the platform and the causes of the problems, you will receive a variety of answers. Martin Klesmann, spokesman for the education administration, tried on Wednesday to present the situation positively. The system was already running smoothly on Tuesday, with more than 65,000 active users, he said, there was a record.

He ignored the reports of continued disruptions on Tuesday as well as the fact that 65,000 learners represent only half of the registered users and a fraction of all those active in the education system. Had they actually found alternative ways of teaching and learning outside of school or just twiddling their thumbs?

Platform expansion was not a priority

From the learning room itself, the pedagogical area of ​​which is now handled by 18 teachers who are released on a hourly basis, it was said on Wednesday that the crisis management had worked well. No one wanted to comment on the question of whether and when the disruptions threaten to recur and whether the platform, which was financed with 500,000 euros last year, was technically suitable for accessing hundreds of thousands of users.

It seems clear: Priority, as Senator Sandra Scheeres and State Secretary Beate Stoffers (both SPD) recently asserted several times, the expansion of the platform certainly did not have a priority.

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After the learning room collapsed in the first lockdown in mid-March under the payload, which had increased significantly compared to before, the education administration sent a record message days later. "In the meantime, well over a million schoolchildren and teachers access the Berlin learning space every day," explained the authority. There are only 375,000 potential users in Berlin. The administration pointed out that more than 27,000 new users have registered since the first lockdown came into force.

"This gives digital learning a new boost," Senator Scheeres said at the time. Since then she has been criticized for not underpinning this boost either financially or in terms of personnel. The attacks did not come from the opposition alone.

System is reaching the limits of technical feasibility

What has happened since then? Not that much. Even the education administration only mentions measures from December in its answer to a catalog of questions on Wednesday. In this way, contractual foundations were created in order to expand the usage capacity to 120,000 users. Currently, ongoing operations are to be secured in a two-stage process and the capacity to be increased by adapting the Moodle architecture on which the program is based.

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However, the education administration admits that “the Moodle architecture with the required 110,000 to 150,000 users is reaching the limits of technical feasibility”. An optimization of components and scaling of resources have to be "done at short notice".

Why, according to these experts, the foreseeable step had not been taken months earlier, for example during the summer vacation, remained unclear. As well as the question of why the expansion of the learning space announced for the “coming weeks” for all pupils including teachers in Berlin should only now be “conceptually developed and implemented in the next few weeks parallel to ongoing operations”.

Too often the problem was sat out

Critical observers are unlikely to be reassured by these announcements - there are no final dates. Too often the Scheeres authorities sat out the problem. The promise of a so-called positive list, a list of programs that can be used without hesitation by schools, is an example of this. "We are working on it," said Klesmann on Wednesday.

It is unclear how it will continue in the short term. The education administration is now giving schools the freedom to use the commercial provider "itslearning" and is currently negotiating the terms. It remains to be seen whether the platform really helps and whether the learning space has a future at all.

Bernd Schlömer, IT expert of the FDP parliamentary group who is recognized across all political groups, like Dirk Stettner (CDU) recently, advocates a “U-turn” towards a cloud-based solution such as the HPI-Cloud learning platform developed by the Hasso Plattner Institute.

This is currently running at around 100 Berlin schools and, according to reports, is at least safer than the study room. However, the system that was used across the board in the neighboring state of Brandenburg also got hooked when home lessons started there in December - as did “itslearning” and other systems such as “Mebis” in Bavaria.

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