What is your work situation like at the moment?

“It’s hard, but obviously it’s hard for everyone. My wife and I are expecting our baby daughter to be born in three weeks, so we had actually planned to do as much work as possible before her birth. The way things are going, that’s not really going to happen. But to be quite honest, we lecturers are better off than most people. Our wages will continue to be paid and we’re fairly used to doing our work remotely anyway. We’re lucky.”

Are there any lectures you can’t teach right now?

“I was preparing to teach three courses, so I’m having to improvise a little. For each of those courses I’ve selected a few students I trust to give me feedback on the way I’m planning to teach the lectures. Those students are highly engaged, which is great. But I do admit I’m not a fan of blended learning (a combination of in-class and online teaching – ed.), because you do miss out on a lot of interaction and contact.”

Are you having to digitise things before being able to teach those lectures?

“Well, I used to work a lot with the Prezi presentation tool, but this is no longer supported by the university. As a result, I’m having to redo all my old lectures in new software. At the very least I’ll have 22 slides I can share with the students taking one of those courses. Other than that, things look set to get fairly complicated, because I generally set exams with open-ended questions, and that’s kind of hard at present, from a technological point of view.”

Is the university offering you the right kind of facilities?

“I think our support staff’s response to the crisis was brilliant. They got together at once last Friday to see how best to help the lecturers teach online. I have to admit I don’t use facilities such as remote desktop a lot. For the most part, I’m doing my own thing.”

Are you more worried than you might otherwise have been because your wife is pregnant?

“Yes, my wife is concerned about how the coronavirus might affect her pregnancy and life after giving birth. But I do think the Netherlands is implementing proper measures. This country is well prepared for crises. But yeah, her being pregnant is an added ground for concern.”

Are you taking any additional steps in order to prevent being infected?

“When I heard that half the Dutch population don’t wash their hands after peeing, I felt that I was doing alright. We do go outside less often. We mainly go outside to buy groceries. Other than that, nothing much is changing. I think that, in terms of my being French, I’m halfway between French culture and Chinese culture. The French don’t understand what the hell is going on and are living life as usual, whereas the Chinese refuse to leave their homes.”

So you’re only kissing one cheek now, rather than two?

Laughs: “I’m sticking to elbow greetings for now.”

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