“When the crisis broke out, the decision was quickly made that the class for my Legal Academic Skills course would not take place. We then very quickly adapted the lectures with webcasts and extra assignments so that students could still be taught. Since June last year, I have also been supervising tutorial groups.
“I don’t mind teaching online. There are an average of around ten students in a tutorial group, so it’s easy to keep things manageable. For the Legal Academic Skills course, I have online meetings with twenty to twenty-five students at a time. These also tend to go very smoothly.”
Delegating responsibility to students
“Generally speaking, you have to use different tricks than in the classroom. I switch a lot between ‘classical teaching’ and getting students to work together. Where you would normally resort to a PowerPoint diagram to illustrate something, I try to do that kind of thing less often. I now set more assignments, three or four per lecture. That way, I make sure the lecture remains dynamic so that everyone’s attention is still held.
“What also works really well is delegating a lot of responsibility to the students themselves. In a tutorial group, for example, tutors usually make an overview of who has what role during a session. But now I allow the students to decide that for themselves. They handle that responsibility extremely well. It gives them the feeling that they are more in control. I think that sense of control is really what most people are looking for in these times.”
A platform to meet up with each other
“My tutorial group sessions run for five weeks and each time I start with the question: how have you experienced this period? Students mention that they are lonely and find it difficult to make contact. That’s why I try to give students a platform on Zoom. My channel for the tutorial groups is always available to them. I always let them know: ‘As far as I’m concerned, this is your classroom, use it even when I’m not here. Discuss things with each other here, organise digital drinks together, have some fun!’
‘The most annoying thing is when the technology doesn’t work’
Sandra van Thiel is very appreciative of the ICT support given to staff and is also happy…
“You can see that the groups that do use it, have a nicer time with each other during the sessions. I have one group that really doesn’t do anything with it and as soon as you take a break, the screens go black straight away. On the other hand, the groups that make a lot of use of the opportunities to meet each other digitally will stay and chat with each other during the break.”
No work in the weekend
“The combination of working from home and education for children at home works quite well in our house. I have gotten better at setting limits as well. Whereas last year I often finished off some work on a Saturday morning, I’ve now made a very strict rule that I’m only available between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays.
This has ultimately given me a real breather. Which is probably exactly what we all really need during this period – to be a bit gentler on yourself, to realise that not everything is possible and not everything has to be finished at that particular moment.”