The faculties are slowly beginning to plan to get more students back to the campus after the Christmas break. Most faculties will continue to focus those attempts first and foremost on first-year students, as they have been doing since the start of the current academic year. “Something we had to temporarily stop doing but wish to start up again now is mentor groups. These allow first-year students to get together under the supervision of a more advanced student,” said Bram Steijn, the Vice-Dean of the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB). Some tutorials, too, will be taught in person again – for instance, certain tutorials taught to the Bachelor’s students of the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and lectures taught at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).
The Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) also offered ‘on-campus days’ in the first semester and will continue to do so in the second semester. “We received a very positive response to the on-campus day for our first-year students,” says Brigitte Hoogendoorn, ESE’s Programme Manager. “Just a few activities organised on campus can be quite motivating.” What is notable is that ESE’s on-campus activities will be geared more towards second-year students, as well. “They had relatively few on-campus activities before the Christmas break. For instance, we have now scheduled the practicals for two Block-3 subjects back to back on the same day, so that second-year Bachelor’s students of Economics will be able to come to campus weekly to attend these practicals.”
Hybrid teaching not a hit
The faculties did not really enjoy their experience of lectures and seminars that were able to be attended both on campus and online, the so-called ‘hybrid lessons’. ESHCC, for instance, is keen to drop the hybrid format where possible. Jason Pridmore, the Vice-Dean of Teaching at ESHCC, had the following to say on the subject: “We’ve noticed that it’s not a great format for either lecturers or students. How are lecturers to divide their attention between students asking questions in the lecture theatre and students asking questions online?” ESE and the Erasmus School of Law (ESL) will also do their best to avoid this format in the upcoming second semester. “There will be a few classes that will be taught online and in person simultaneously, but generally, we will choose either one of the two formats,” says Piet Scheele, a Policy Director at ESL.
Exams to be administered in person where possible
Where possible, the various faculties will administer their exams on campus. For instance, the great majority of ESL and Erasmus MC students will be able to sit their exams in a large regular exam room. Nevertheless, all faculties have encountered restrictions. “Exams sat by fewer than 450 students will be administered on campus,” says ESSB’s Steijn. “The larger exams must be taken online. There’s no way around that.” Due to accusations of cheating and technical issues, most students and lecturers would rather avoid online exams.
Online teaching greatly improved
Despite the fact that more activities will be offered on campus, the vast majority of classes will continue to be taught online during the second semester. In recent months, the faculties have learned a lot about how to deal with online teaching. For this reason, most of the deans of teaching we spoke to told us they have a great deal of faith in the quality of the online lectures. “Both lecturers and students are much better equipped for them now,” says Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Dean of Teaching Eric Waarts. “Technology has improved, and teaching methods have been adjusted in such a way that our online classes are no longer inferior to our on-campus classes.” For instance, students are highly appreciative of the fact that many course materials and lectures can now be found online and that they can be accessed at any time from any place.
Creative online teaching formats must be retained
Lecturers are coming up with more and more ways to convey the subject matter in a creative manner. ISS’s lecturers are, too. “When teaching online, creative formats — such as using music, photos or art — work well,” says Karin Arts. “And we also really like group assignments in which students get to create posters or videos together.”
Furthermore, many faculties have come to appreciate small-scale online meetings. Several faculties and institutes, such as ESSB, ISS and RSM, have had a very positive experience of ‘breakout rooms’, i.e. divided sessions created during Zoom or Team meetings in which smaller groups can have online discussions. The various faculties’ deans wish to use this teaching format more often in the second semester. “This method allows students to go more in-depth,” says Waarts. “Moreover, it allows students to get to know each other much better.”
Finding alternatives to work placements and hands-on teaching continues to be a great challenge, particularly for the Faculty of Medicine. “Finding an alternative to the foundation programme (internships – ed.) is quite hard,” Vice-Dean Maarten Frens admits. “You don’t learn how to perform a physical examination on Zoom.” Some students are still able to follow the foundation programme at Erasmus MC or at hospitals in the surrounding region. “In addition, we are teaching students clinical reasoning, as well, on the basis of online cases.”
Some ESSB students will not be able to have their work placements. “But we did manage to arrange quite a few short-term placements for our Bachelor’s students of Public Administration and Sociology,” says Steijn. Other students will be able to take a third-year course instead of a work placement.
More ‘fun’ activities
In addition to regular classes, several faculties want to offer their students more informal activities in the second half of the academic year. ESL is one of those faculties. “We will organise such activities to allow students to get to meet each other,” says Scheele. “For instance, we’re going to establish a buddy programme for first-year students.” RSM, too, wants students to get to know each other. Says Waarts: “We’re already doing a lot on top of the regular classes, for instance through the STAR faculty society In addition, at the request of our students, we have scheduled many getting-to-know-each-other moments between or during our online classes, for instance through break-out sessions, where students get to hang out in an informal manner.”
The in-person activities offered on campus are optional, but the faculties expect many students to attend these on-campus classes. “Some students don’t mind taking all their courses online at all, but they are definitely in a minority,” says Scheele.