Coronavirus triggers Portuguese distance learning boom

The academic communities in Portugal have rapidly taken up distance learning services due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Over very short time, the number of daily users has risen from just below 2,000 to more than 60,000.

Named after the tiny Colibri (English: hummingbird), the distance learning service of the Foundation for Science and Technology in Portugal has seen a steep rise in popularity since the COVID-19 outbreak. From the normal average of 210 daily e-meetings and conferences, the number has risen to 2,698 (March 16, 2020). Similarly, the average number of daily users used to be just below 2,000. On March 16, it was 63,181.

“In the context of the current public health crisis, with tele-working and distance learning coming in as solutions, we can affirm an exponential growth of services such as the Colibri,” says Nuno Rodrigues, speaking for the Foundation for Science and Technology.

24,000 educational videos

The Colibri service was created by the National Scientific Computing (FCCN) unit of the Foundation for Science and Technology. The main mission of FCCN is planning and maintaining RCTS – a digital research infrastructure across all scientific disciplines. The RCTS is also an experimental platform for advanced communications applications and services.

The Colibri service allows for conferences with up to 300 participants with audio, video, and text contributions. The service is interconnected to the Educast system offering a total of more than 24,000 educational videos for streaming and download. Further, the NAU platform (Sempre A Aprender – always learning) offers online classes for large audiences in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) format.

Ready for further growth

Anticipating further increases in the demand for Colibri, FCCN has increased the platform’s capacity several times during the past weeks. Currently, with several universities and polytechnic institutes substituting face-to-face classes with virtual classes, it is possible to hold 2,600 meetings simultaneously with Colibri. As 300 participants can attend each meeting, in theory it is possible for 780,000 people to use the platform simultaneously.

Published: 03/2020

For more information please contact our contributor(s):