Econometrics lecturer Christiaan Heij during an online consultation.

“Does it feel very different, teaching a lecture to more than three hundred students in a lecture hall or via a screen? Yes and no. Not all students feel heard in a full lecture theatre, either. To many of our students, the transition from secondary school to their degree programme is a pretty big shock, anyway. We work at a much higher pace than they are used to. And unfortunately, about half of our first-year students drop out.”

Zoom consultations three times per week

Heij did not have to teach any lectures prior to the summer and spent that time working hard to record his lectures for his new first-year students on video. Those recordings are now used in the new academic year.“In addition, I have an online consultation hour – which often lasts longer than an hour – on Zoom three times a week, to discuss the subject matter discussed that day. I’ve found that students find it easier to ask questions there than in a full lecture hall. They seem to find it easier to give input that way. I think that’s very valuable. The level of the discussions also tends to be higher than what I generally see in a full lecture hall.

“What was new for me was working with all the new information technology devices. I had never worked with a tablet before, but my colleagues explained to me how to do it. Now I use a tablet to explain questions during my lectures. And because I’m an experienced lecturer, I know which components students tend to struggle with and I now use quizzes to give my students some more practice with these. I’m currently working much longer hours than I’m supposed to work each week, but I don’t mind.

‘I miss the energy’

“Of course things are different in a lecture hall. I can crack a joke there if I feel that students’ attention is flagging. I can’t do that now. I miss the energy that comes from direct interaction. But I do think that the students have adjusted to the circumstances extremely well. Things are going a lot better than I was expecting.”