‘On-site education is here to stay, but it needs improvement’

UG: On-site education here to stay, but needs improvement

Last week, the discussion about online university education reached a nadir. But the UG board never meant they wanted to do away with on-site education. Even before the corona crisis, they wanted to move towards a hybrid form of education.
By Giulia Fabrizi and Rob Siebelink
24 June om 11:04 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 25 June 2020
om 12:27 uur.
June 24 at 11:04 AM.
Last modified on June 25, 2020
at 12:27 PM.

Do you have a question? 

Every week, rector Cisca Wijmenga, board president Jouke de Vries, and board member Hans Biemans will be answering the most burning questions from the academic community.

Do you have a question for the board? Send a mail to uk@rug.nl

People have had a lot to say the past few weeks about the way you’ve embraced online education. Student party Lijst Calimero says the university isn’t a YouTube channel, Casper Albers wrote in his UKrant column that online education would mean the death of the university, and in his column, Gerrit Breeuwsma said that the board of directors should do absolutely everything they can to continue on-site education.

Jouke de Vries: ‘How much on-site education we’ll be able to provide depends on the number of corona cases. But what we meant was that the digital revolution set in motion by corona has led to developments we’ll be able to incorporate in our regular operations. They’re developments we want to use to broaden the university.’

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘I can’t remember we ever said anything that wasn’t in favour of a hybrid model. We want to combine the best of both worlds.

On-site education will have to improve, though. We can’t have lecturers just info-dumping on students, that needs to change. They could do the prep work online from home and focus more on community and mutual inspiration in class.’

You were already talking about improving classes, either with or without digital help, before the corona crisis broke out.

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘We were. Digitisation doesn’t mean online education only. But we can definitely utilise the developments from the last few months. It’s a tool that will help us to do things differently. We’d been working on it before the pandemic, but this has sped up the process.’

Hans Biemans: ‘Corona has clearly made this discussion more relevant. I especially hope the discussion inspires people who’ve got ideas. People with insights about how to improve on-site education, or even online education. Columns are a great way to share your thinking, but I mainly hope that it inspires people to share their visions. We can learn from them.’

The ISO said last week that the corona crisis has led to an increase of students with a study delay by 54,000. Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven replied that universities should be teaching classes at night and on weekends in an effort to make up for that…

Jouke de Vries: ‘That is a misquote, based on an article in ScienceGuide. It’s not actually what she said. People made way too big a fuss. I think the minister meant to say that something needed to be done to make up for the delays, and that she’d leave it up to the universities to decide whether that would involve evening or weekend classes.’

What are the UG’s plans in this regard?

Jouke de Vries: ‘Work stress at the university is at an all-time high, so we’d like to prevent people having to teach extra classes. But if it’s necessary and people volunteer, it might be an option. But it’s a big thing, since it wouldn’t involve just a few researcher or lecturers. Support staff would have to stay late as well. I’m not sure that’s a good idea, since people have already been working so hard lately.’

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘We can’t make it seem like we want even more from people right now. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done before the new academic year in September, and that’s taking a lot out of everyone as well. I don’t think we should be asking people to add even more work to their plate.’

It’s unclear how many students will actually come to the UG next year. The University of Maastricht decided to send all its students, not just first-years but older ones as well, a survey to ask them whether they’ll be attending the uni in person or if they’re staying home. 

Hans Biemans: ‘That’s an option, but many students don’t even know themselves right now. It’s a relevant question, but international students, for example, don’t even know if they’ll be able to travel here yet.’

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘Seniors who might not be coming back to Groningen still need education. We’ve promised them that online education will be available no matter what. It would be good to know how many actual people we can expect, but we still have to provide online education. That means lecturers need to know how to properly teach online classes.’

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