In mid-March the University Council surveyed nearly one thousand students. The survey results showed that 19 percent of them have a poor Internet connection, while 18 percent do not have a webcam. “It’s hard for them to attend online seminars or sit online examinations,” Younes Assou told Erasmus TV on Tuesday morning. He was surprised to learn that so many students do not have the right equipment. “We must realise that these students need our help. I think the problem is even worse now that everyone is making video calls because of the lockdown.”
The Erasmus Trust Fund will help students who do not have the right equipment to attend online classes and who lack the resources to acquire the right equipment. Students are welcome to apply for financial support if, for instance, they do not have a proper laptop, or if they have a poor Internet connection. Margot Bleeker, the director of the Trust Fund, explained to Erasmus TV that students can submit an application for help to their counsellors. Students applying for financial support must demonstrate that they need the support by means of a budget, an explanation and a short letter of motivation.
Nevertheless, Assou believes that financial support may not suffice to solve problems surrounding online education. “Online examinations are an issue in themselves. Over 23 percent of students hail from low-income families. I’d imagine that they might have some difficulty focusing on their studies. I fear that online education will result in a greater gap between the fortunate and the less fortunate.”
He understands that online seminars and examinations are currently the best way to work towards a degree. “But we have to look into solutions that work for everyone, such as extra resits and other grading methods.”
Rector Rutger Engels acknowledged the problems on Erasmus TV, but emphasised that the situation is complicated. “The fact that we can’t use our facilities, that we can’t open our library, is a problem. I’m happy to discuss creative solutions with others.”