Teaching through Teams, taking exams digitally and online, or using tools for online interaction. The corona virus turned our education system upside down. How do LEG colleagues Marcel Boumans (USE) and Jasper Sluijs (Law) look back on the past year and a half? What brought them distance education? And what exactly did they run into?
‘Physical education is essential', says Marcel, but 'I don't see the added value of a lecture for 500 students in the Educatorium above a well-recorded lecture. The advantage of a recorded lecture is that it can be cut into parts, so that each subject can be treated as a nicely finished whole. A lecture is thus a succession of knowledge clips.'
‘Students don't follow anything linear anymore,' says Jasper. ‘Why would they listen to a talking head twice forty-five minutes? I think linear lectures will probably cease to exist in a while. I think it's a good idea to keep up with developments and to design education in a way that makes it more instructive and more fun for everyone.’
Time for tools
Marcel: "I was struck by how quickly colleagues embraced all kinds of tools and applications shortly after the first lockdown. An important factor here was Educate-it, which quickly adapted to this and provided a lot of support. Many thanks also to Margreet and Roel!’
Jasper: 'In the past period I have become a huge fan of FeedbackFruits, a plugin for Blackboard that stimulates online interaction. Literally converting my 'physical' lectures to an online form proved a disaster. In my search for other ways to activate students, I came across this tool. In it, students watch knowledge clips that are interrupted by assignments. This allows me to achieve a form of interaction and an active attitude among students in lectures, which is not so easy in a traditional, large-scale lecture setting.
An additional advantage is that this tool provides me with a lot of meta-data. I can see how long it takes them to complete an assignment, where they paused a video, and so on. They can also add comments about the material, which gives them an accessible way to indicate when they don't understand something. That is valuable information for me, which I can then use directly in my tutorial.'
Unfortunately, distance education also has disadvantages. Marcel thinks that online proctoring in particular, especially for large groups, is a step in the wrong direction. ‘I can understand the objections of students to online proctoring. I very much encouraged professors to find other forms of examination, but for large groups it was almost impossible. Written exams are actually a poor form of examination, that we do it is mainly for reasons of efficiency. So a small advantage is that we did start thinking about other forms of examinations consciously.’
Contact with and between students remains of great importance. Jasper: ‘Giving lectures with the help of FeedbackFruits, for example, is not such a bad idea, as long as the contact with students does not suffer. However, I would not like to give my tutorials online anymore. That was really dictated by necessity.'
Marcel adds, 'Education is largely a social activity. Teaching in a physical space where good interaction can take place therefore remains essential. Online education cannot replace it: 'talking' via chat or camera is a fairly one-dimensional form of communication. You can address someone poorly, and someone's body language is difficult to read. As a teacher, you cannot see what is going on. I missed this aspect that makes teaching so much fun for a year and a half. Moreover, having a good Internet connection and quiet learning environment also plays a big role, which often could not be met.'