Spotting the gaps
As a long-time geoscientist, Kattis Jonson Berglund has the ability to look at the big picture and spot where gaps can be found. Something that has proved very useful during the spring crisis when KTH switched to online education.
Jonson Berglund is Head of the Education Office and has, like many other people, taken great care to ensure that efforts to keep people updated have been continued pretty much 24/7 ever since the start of the coronavirus. However over the past month, the crisis has given way to planning ahead of the return to campus education this autumn.
When we catch up with her, Jonson Berglund is rushing between two zoom meetings. She talks rapidly as she gives us a glimpse of the work done in the spring – when she was immediately co-opted onto the KTH crisis management group.
Things started coming to a head as early as January, when exchange students and personnel from China needed help to travel home. The risk areas were expanded to include more countries in February. Many students were refused permission to travel on exchange and others were stranded abroad.
“We already had some experience from Hong Kong when it came to bringing home students. Which was good.”
As the virus continued to spread ever more rapidly, emergency meetings, press conferences, decisions and recommendations came rapidly on top of each other. The search for answers and solutions without holes in, intensified.
“In a way, I felt a sense of relief when the government decision on distance education was announced on 16 March. This meant that we then knew what applied and it was a case of sorting, trying to see the big picture without missing some details and do everything we could to make it work.”
Someone asked her as she made her way along the rather deserted KTH corridors if this was all her doing. As head of a department with around 130 people, surely she had enough on her plate?
“You roll your sleeves up when needs must. It’s actually not that remarkable and it has really been a team effort. A kind of professional pride if you like – if the courses aren’t working, then neither is KTH.”
She feels, as a geoscientist who has spent plenty of time out in the field, including at a research station in the Swedish mountains and the Australian outback, where snake bites, snow storms and unreliable vehicles were some of the challenges, that this has been a big help in the work she has done during the crisis.
“You need to constantly plan several steps and scenarios ahead at the same time. And you have to do this quickly. Keeping a cool head and putting your emotions to one side are also vital. Having everything done and dusted is not really my thing.”
With the support of teachers, the working group was successfully able to re-orient KTH’s study programmes and examinations in a new, digital direction.
“It has been fantastic to see the power and knowledge we possess when we really need both. We have masses to build on for the future,” she says, while also calling for greater clarity in the structure in terms of what should be done and by whom.
“I think we have learned a great many lessons here too. Broad communication is crucial, as is retaining a good tone of voice even when things are really hotting up.”
How do you see education developing over the next ten years?
“Maybe rolling exams, a digital environment enables more individually tailored modular courses where you choose what you want to do and show what you are capable of.”
Words: Jill Klackenberg