Student unions are being told en masse by students that online education is not a good alternative to regular education. LSVb president Lyle Muns is worried about students who are constantly sitting at home, so he wants the campus to be opened up further. “Many students sit in a small room or are interrupted all the time by their little brothers or sisters while studying. The privacy of students is violated as a result of online proctoring and online exams have to be retaken because the system is not working properly. A lot of students can’t take it anymore.”

Younes Assou of the University Council also thinks that students are yearning to come back to campus. “The most important thing is to arrange more study places. I see that the university and the council are working on that. But I wonder if more can’t be done.”

'Teachers feel just the same way as students'

Teachers are also looking forward to the campus reopening. That is what vice-dean Jason Pridmore of the Erasmus School of History, Culture & Communication says. “Teachers feel just the same way as students. Nobody likes to stare at a screen all day long. We want to feel connected with students and that’s quite difficult when we don’t have in-person classes.”

Yet hosting activities on campus is not as easy as it seems. “Even though the vast majority of students keep a decent distance, there’s a chance that some of them won’t stick to the rules,” Pridmore notes. “And I would hate it if someone got sick because we chose to offer classes in person. Colleagues are worried about that.”

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Hybrid lectures put pressure on teachers

Pridmore believes that even giving hybrid lectures – where students can choose to be present either in person or online – is not an ideal solution either. Although this does benefit students, it puts too much pressure on lecturers. “Teachers spend a lot of time organising those kinds of lectures. How, for instance, should they divide their attention between questions from the two groups? Organising this costs a lot of time and consequently they have less time left over for other important tasks.”

As far as Assou is concerned, it can’t happen soon enough that more is possible on campus once again. “This is about students’ health. I know all about that myself. I personally have family members with health problems, and I have to help them on a regular basis. It’s very difficult to combine a domestic situation with studying at home.”

Pridmore also sees that students and teachers are running out of patience. “But for now, above all, we must remember that this situation is comparable to wartime. We have a lot of restrictions, but we really need them in order to stay safe. At the end of the day, we’ll all be happy to get through this as soon we possibly can.”

So far, faculties have tackled how they provide online and offline education in a variety of ways. Aside from Pridmore, other deans have also responded to whether or not the campus should be opened up further.

Jane Cramm, Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management

“All the buildings are empty and that makes me very sad. In our online programme, we are trying to arrange more social interaction that is not linked to learning objectives. For example, we organise online games. We prefer to do this on campus, but we must continue to bear in mind the RIVM guidelines. Nevertheless, I would very much like to see that diploma ceremonies take place in person again. So much has already been restricted and this is something that students really look forward to.”

Brigitte Hoogendoorn, Erasmus University of Economics

“Although the emphasis in our faculty is on online education, we do everything we can to make on-campus education possible, and we try to prioritise first-year students in that. For starters, we are organising a number of in-person campus days whereby activities across multiple subjects can be followed in a single day. This really is a case of figuring everything out, because lecturers have to adapt their lesson plans accordingly. I can well imagine that it seems as if not much is being done to bring students back on campus. After all, the university looks deserted. But behind the scenes, as much as possible is being done, given the restrictions.”

Eric Waarts, Rotterdam School of Management

“We are a very large faculty and many of our students are living abroad. If the guidelines are tightened up, the campus could close down again in no time. We therefore focus on providing reassurance so that students and lecturers know where they stand. I’m afraid we won’t be able to start any in-person lectures over the coming months. I don’t think we should take that risk. However, we are in the process of organising small-scale activities and I think it would be good to create more physical workplaces.”

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