UKrant survey: online tests take too long

Students distracted by doorbells and cats

UKrant survey: online tests take too long

Students are mainly happy with the digital tests the UG provides, but there are some issues. Many students feel the tests take too long. These are the results from an online UKrant survey.
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The survey shows that 85 percent of students are reasonably happy to very happy with the online testing at the UG. Nevertheless, 70 percent of the respondents said there were issues.

Almost half of them feel the tests take too long. ‘All the tests, as well as the alternative assignment I did this block, were too long to complete in the time allotted’, one person wrote.

The survey also shows that many students are distracted by ambient noise. More than 43 percent of the 250 respondents said they were distracted by persons or things. ‘The doorbell rang…’ one person responded. Another student was distracted by their cat.

Stress

Various respondents said that the online tests are adding stress to an already stressful situation. ‘I felt panicky taking the test like this, because I’m not in an environment that makes me feel productive’, one of the participants in the survey said. 

To prevent cheating, students are often asked to fill out a ‘student pledge’, respondents said, in which student promise not to cheat during the test. Approximately 80 percent of respondents said they’d filled out this pledge.

Nevertheless, it’s not watertight. Last week, it was discovered that twenty psychology students potentially cheated on their exam by discussing it in WhatsApp group chats.

On Wednesday, we’ll be publishing a background article about the UKrant survey about online testing: ‘Suddenly, my screen flashed a red error message’.

Vindicat opens centre for start-ups at Nieuwe Markt

Vindicat opens centre for start-ups at Nieuwe Markt

Vindicat will be housing start-ups in a ‘student innovation centre’ at the Nieuwe Markt. The centre, which is scheduled for a July opening, will house a pub, meeting rooms, and workspaces.

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‘Many people come here to study and then move out west. We want to make sure they leave something behind’, says Ruben Petit (22). He came up with the project, together with Eduard Hietink. 

The pair are on the Vindicat anniversary committee together. The student association is celebrating its 405th anniversary this year. ‘We wanted to do something that isn’t focused on partying. Something concrete’, says Petit. They met with a few former members and concluded they needed to create a place for student start-ups.

The centre will be housed in a monumental building at the Martinikerkhof, the back of which faces the Nieuwe Markt. Vindicat already owned the building. ‘We’re not using the building, and it’s the perfect spot.’ The building was constructed in the nineteenth century by Groningen industrialist Jan Evert Scholten. The garage on the ground floor will house the pub, the first floor will have meeting rooms, and workspace will be created in the attic. 

Access

Vindicat is keeping in close contact with the RUG and the city to ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible, says Petit. Everyone will be able to have access to the centre. ‘Vindicat wants to open its doors, and this is they way to do it.’ 

They’re still thinking about a name. ‘We wanted to name it Gouden Horizon, sort of like a new Golden Age for Groningen. But we’d rather give it a name in English.’ The language spoken in the centre will also be English, in a bid to attract international students. 

The centre is scheduled to open in July, during the anniversary celebrations. ‘We won’t be finished with the renovations, but we’d like to have an open day so people can get an idea of what it’s going to look like. We can finish it afterwards.’

Employee survey: work stress complaints remain

Employee survey RUG

Work stress complaints remain

RUG employees feel the same approximate level of satisfaction in their work as they did two years ago, the RUG’s employee survey shows. But they are still very unhappy with other things, work stress being one of the biggest.
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Employees rate their work at a 7.5, which is nominally higher than two years ago. Unfortunately, the RUG still has a low score when it comes to the balance between teaching and research, with employees giving it a grade of 5.

The survey also shows that very few employees manage to finish their work within their contracted hours. More than half of employees ends up working overtime on a regular basis. While they’re happy with their direct supervisors and colleagues, the latter who they feel they can trust, they don’t sense much appreciation from the RUG as a whole.

Undesired behaviour

Employees also reported an increase in undesired behaviour. Two years ago, 12 percent of staff members reported this, while this year, it’s 16 percent.

The increase is not so much in verbal abuse (43.8 percent this year, down from 52.8 two years ago) or sexual abuse (5.8 percent, down 1 percentage point from two years ago). However, bullying (from 23.6 to 26 percent) and discrimination (from 22.7 to 28.1 percent) were reported more often. This is higher than the benchmark at Dutch universities

Questions about work

More than 60 percent of employees filled out the survey this year, which was executed by research agency Effectory. The RUG employees’ satisfaction was measured based on question about their work, the university, and the atmosphere at work.

After the 2018 results, the RUG started on plans to relieve the work stress and improve social safety. In spite of this, the 2019 results are basically the same as the 2018 ones.

The majority of employees say that they don’t feel like much has changed. ‘We’re headed in the right direction, but we’re not there yet’, says board of director president Jouke de Vries.

The student who counts sea slugs

The student who counts sea slugs

The thought of Bonaire probably conjures up images of sun, sea, and the beach. But Lukas Verboom (27), a master student of marine biology, visited the island for an entirely different reason: he was counting sea slugs.

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Ever since he was a child, Verboom has been fascinated by snails and shells. ‘I’d say I’m fairly knowledgeable’, he says. This knowledge came in handy when the RUG, in collaboration with Naturalis and Stichting Anemoon, was putting together an international research team to study Bonaire’s marine biodiversity. ‘There was no one in the team who would be studying molluscs, so they invited me.’ 

He says the past three weeks were ‘an amazing experience’. Verboom was sent out to count the slugs who eat coral, like the Coralliophila and the Cyphoma, with the latter also being called ‘flamingo tongue’. 

He also drew up a list of all the molluscs living in the island waters. ‘To do that, I had to gather almost two hundred grams of sand during every dive I did.’ Now that he’s returned home, he will be studying the sand to find out what kind of shells it contains.

Bag full of sand

Getting the sand back to Groningen turned out to be quite the challenge. ‘We were allowed 23 kilos of luggage on the plane, and I had a bag full of diving gear’, says Verboom. ‘But on the way back, I was carrying twenty bags of sand, and my luggage was way too heavy.’ He dumped his diving gear and returned home with a bunch of sand.  

At Bonaire, he did approximately thirty dives; twice a day. He would check the number of slugs at a certain location and catalogue which types of coral they ate. ‘I mainly did a lot of counting.’ 

Occasionally he would go on the third dive at night. ‘That’s when other animal come out of the woodwork, so I had a better picture of all the molluscs in the area’, he explains. Some sea slugs are nocturnal, which means the nighttime dives provided him insight into which corals they ate.

Big waves

The team tried to make dives in all the waters around the island. ‘Many people come to Bonaire to dive, but they mainly focus on the west side, where there are beaches and a lovely reef close to the beach’, says Verboom.  

But the researchers also went diving on the east side, where there are pointy rocks and big waves. ‘We were hit by metre-high waves’, says Verboom. The team spotted turtles and two different kinds of sharks. ‘That was pretty cool.’

Cyphoma gibbosum (Flamingo tongue snail)

Expedition leader Bert Hoeksema, professor by special appointment of biology at the RUG, had studied sea slugs together with a student of his before, but that was on Curaçao. ‘But nobody had ever studied these slugs around Bonaire, of whether they have any serious impact on the health of coral reefs’, says Verboom.

The official results still need to be calculated, but he can give us a little preview. ‘I can cautiously say that the animals aren’t a threat to the coral reefs.’ That’s a good thing, he says, since, in contrast to the rest of the world, the Bonaire coral reefs are doing pretty well.

‘Theology shows us that failure is allowed’

Mark is Young Theologian Laureate

‘Theology shows us that failure is allowed’

He may still only be a student at the RUG, but last week Mark de Jager was named Young Theologian Laureate. ‘I want to add some kindness to polarised debates.’

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‘I honestly didn’t expect I’d win’, says Mark de Jager. On November 16, the Night of Theology, the master student at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies was named Young Theologian Laureate. ‘It may have looked like a typical student party, but it wasn’t’, he chuckles. ‘It wasn’t even at night. We filmed it in the evening at a television studio in Hilversum.’

De Jager and his fellow candidates gave a presentation and had to respond to several statements. De Jager’s focus, he says, was on ‘the good life’. ‘We’re living in a performance society where everyone thinks you make your own happiness. Theology shows us that failure is allowed.’

Theology might not solve mental issues, De Jager says, but it can help. ‘A burn-out isn’t the same as a cold of course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk.’

Take All Ears, an initiative where students can anonymously get their worries of their chest. ‘There are several theologians on the other end of the phone that can listen to you unburden your soul.’

De Jager sees how many students are feeling stressed. What can we do to combat this? ‘You have to acknowledge that you can’t create your own happiness, and that it’s okay to fail. You’re not alone.’ He thinks taking time to get rest also helps. ‘For me, that means reading my Bible and praying every morning. Turn off your computer and phone every once in a while. We’re not used to that, since we all have a fear of missing out, but it’s nice to just switch off every now and again.’

Stuffy old men

His rivals for the title of Young Theologian Laureate studied theology in relation to sports or charity, for example. For him, it confirmed how diverse theology can be. ‘The idea people tend to have of theologians is these stuffy old men who just spend the whole day reading the Bible. But that idea is wrong.’

De Jager started his bachelor in theology after he was denied a spot in medical school in 2012. ‘I grew up in a fairly religious family, smack dab in the middle of the Veluwe, and I was interested in questioning, studying, and criticising faith.’ He would like to eventually become a minister. ‘I’ve realised things that I think are too amazing not to tell other people about.’

Stand firm

This coming year, De Jager expects to take part in social debates, write columns, and preach in churches. ‘It’ll be good practice.’ He would also like to cultivate a more active Twitter presence. ‘The previous Theologian Laureate used Twitter a lot. It allowed him to really weigh in on social issues.’

His goal? ‘I want to add some kindness to polarised debates; that’s what a theologian should be doing.’ De Jager says a good theologian is someone who ‘listens to to people on the one hand, but who also isn’t afraid to show the wealth of theological traditions and stands firm on them.’

He gives an example: Stefan Paas, Theologian Laureate in 2018. ‘He said thatThierry Baudet was a racist, and it wasn’t a baseless statement.’ Paas had first explained what racism was and why he felt Baudet was racist. ‘It’s fine to take a firm stand as a theologian, but it’s good to be nuanced about it.’

Video: Standing in line for a study spot

Video

Standing in line for a study spot

Every morning, students line up as early as eight o’clock in front of the University Library doors, which don’t open until eight thirty. Are they die-hard study geeks or are they just desperate to get a table?
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It’s still foggy when the first student walks up to the UB doors. The Martini tower bells ring eight times. Adam Rindelhardt (20), a human geography student, sleepily stares out across the square. ‘Yesterday I couldn’t even find a place to sit’, he says. All the tables were taken by nine thirty. ‘But now, I should be good.’ He doesn’t like studying at home. ‘There are too many things to distract me.’ 

He gratefully accepts the coffee we offer him. ‘I usually have a coffee at home, but today I wanted to be here on time.’ Once the doors open, he’ll go all the way upstairs. ‘I want a spot on the top floor, so I’ll have a nice view’, he says. He has an exam tomorrow, so he needs to work hard.

In line for thirty minutes

As more students arrive at the Broerstraat, the group of people lining up in front of the door grows. ‘We don’t have a choice. We’d have to wait in line for thirty minutes otherwise’, says Boris Vermuiden (25), who’s doing a pre-master in human resource management. ‘I’ve had to be here this early several times over the past few weeks.’ 

He didn’t go to bed on time, though: ‘My head hit the pillow around one in the morning.’ That meant the alarm went off really early. ‘It’s not great of course. But it’s also because the public library is closed so there are fewer spots. But it is what it is. It’s worth it.’

Trucks on the sidewalk

The group has spread out in front of the doors. Trucks have to drive on the sidewalk to avoid the horde of students. Master student of international commercial law Dinda Himmah (22) has never been at the library this early before. ‘I was waiting for a friend at the train station and I didn’t have anywhere else to go.’ She has an exam tomorrow, so she made good use of her time.

At exactly eight thirty, the revolving door to the library unlocks. One by one the students go inside. Half an hour later, the group has dwindled to just a few people smoking out front. Tomorrow morning it will start all over again.

Translation by Sarah van Steenderen