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On 03 March 2022, the Croatian Institute of Public Health published the Guidelines for teaching delivery at higher education institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with anti-epidemic measures in the summer semester of the academic year 2021/2022 (text in Croatian) The guidelines state that all the measures and recommendations introduced regarding teaching delivery at higher education institutions (HEIs) during the pandemic have been revoked. Teaching at HEIs should resume in accordance with the provisions of the accredited study programmes, which implies traditional, in-person delivery, with students and teaching staff present in the classroom, for all part-time and full-time students. 

Surveys conducted in 2021 by the Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) (Students and the pandemic: How did we survive? and HEI teachers and the pandemic: Academic and psychological challenges) show that the majority of both HEI staff and students favour in-person teaching over online delivery. Despite acknowledging certain benefits of online delivery, transitioning to this type of teaching during the pandemic has had an impact on students’ mental health, their social inclusion, the experience of studying and the quality of student life.

Given these survey results and the fact that anti-epidemic measures have been lifted, ASHE emphasizes the necessity of in-person teaching delivery at all times during the summer semester of the current academic year, in accordance with licences issued to HEIs, which follow regulations in the area of higher education and science.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HEIs in Croatia mostly resorted to blended (hybrid) teaching delivery, which implies a combination of online and in-person classes, as well as teaching delivered wholly online. Transitioning from the physical to the virtual environment allowed for the uninterrupted delivery of classes while the pandemic was at its peak.  HEIs made a significant effort to deliver regular lectures and practical lessons, hold office hours and provide other content in the virtual environment. However, the question remains as to whether learning outcomes can be achieved and to what extent.

Classes such as those described above cannot be considered online study programmes because the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education stipulates that in order to conduct an online study programme, it must be approved by the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development. In order to protect the quality of online study programmes, the National Council has issued the Criteria and procedures for the evaluation of online study programmes. The evaluation of the proposed online study programmes will be carried out by the Agency for Science and Higher Education. 

HEIs that wish to conduct their study programmes in an online format and recognise this as the strategic goal of the institution must ensure that they have all the necessary and adequate resources, develop the study programme, adapt the way the courses are taught and assessed, etc. They must then obtain the approval of the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development.  Following the approval of the National Council, the online study programme must be added to the Register of Study Programmes of the Ministry of Science and Education. It is then also added to the Directory of Study Programmes maintained by ASHE. 

ASHE official statement (text in Croatian)